Billeder på siden

least with that degree of certainty so as to render the calculation of any utility, must be apparent.

I speak of this, not to argue that the damage done by game is insignificant, but that the enemies of its preservation use this comparison to exaggerate and deceive; for they cannot hit upon a better expedient to make a home-thrust upon the feelings of a farmer than to tell him, “if your landlord would kill up the game, you would be richer by a flock, for five of those hares now feeding on your meadow equal a sheep." Now doubtless the absence of the game would give him an increase of crops, but I deny that the manner of calculating the probable decrease to be caused by its presence is fair.

It must be allowed on all hands that the consumption of corn and grass throughout England by game must, in the aggregate, extend to to such an amount, that, could it be collected, it would be sufficient for the maintenance of many poor families, or even villages, who otherwise would have lived in the misery of poverty: but if this is used as an argument by the game-annihilators, they cannot help going a step farther, and, denying the innocence of keeping alive any animals which are not necessary for food, or for the procuring of it, studs of hunters, packs of hounds, dogs indeed of all sorts save such as guard houses or flocks, would have a price put upon their heads, and in a few years would be, as English wolves, a race spoken of only. As a friend of the canine race, I may hope that this fate rather awaits their enemies than themselves. This reasoning once put in motion, where will it stop? Is every creature which consumes food fit for man, and is not absolutely necessary for life, to be done away with? I see no other termination of such policy.

This, however, applies only to such few, I believe, who uphold the destruction of game on account of the mere consumption of crops by it; but other reasons are given for its abolition, to which I would say a few words.

Under every law cases of great hardship must arise. No legislator has yet been found wise enough to frame enactments which cannot be used by the ill-disposed for bad purposes: few laws are there for the punishment of crime through which a clever rogue may not drive a coach-and-six; and is it cause for wonder that the game laws do not always work so as to give equal justice to all, or that under them individuals are occasionally hardly dealt with? Yet on every seeming pressure of these laws, not only the enactment itself is made a subject for abuse, but a stigma is generally cast upon the Country Magistracy of England at large, the charge seldom stopping short in its insinuations of direct perjury. Cases too are represented in words calculated to hide the real state of facts, and to give a deeper color to the alleged oppression, and this in periodicals which ought to carry on the warfare in a more fair spirit. For instance: a boy is brought up by a keeper, who has caught him in the act of visiting half a dozen different wires*,

*What young poacher ever yet failed to ground his defence, when caught in the act of inspecting wires or taking game from them, upon the well-worn plea, "that he was passing by, that he happened to see the wires, or the hare; so he thought he might as well take her out," &c. Men are punished continually for heavier offences upon much less clear evidence.

looking into them, leaving them, however, in the same condition; that is, ready set. Upon this evidence, circumstantial certainly, but yet of great weight, he is convicted of having set the snares with intent to kill game. How does this appear in the Times (copied perhaps from a provincial Editor)?-"A boy sent to prison for looking at wires!" or to that effect. Such a commencement of a paragraph might have passed unremarked in many an agitating journal but a few months ago, when this paper was not quite so noted for its powers of persecution, and people would have read and believed it in the Times.

But I did not intend so much to direct my observations to the penalties imposed by law for the preservation of game, considering the hardships which may arise from the mode of its feeding, as to the defence of the game laws. However, the penalty for killing game without a certificate seems to me so intimately connected with the preservation of it at all, that the subject cannot well be spoken of without a reference to that part of the law which disables so many from destroying it, although upon their own land.

Between landlord and tenant the point in question is in general the subject of express agreement. An abatement in rent is made on the account of game in the same manner as with respect to tithes or other charges upon the premises, and the farmer enters upon his land knowing that a certain damage will be caused by it. Exceptions there are to this of course; but let us turn our attention at once to the severest cases of injustice that can be urged the destruction of the laborer's little garden. Here indeed is cause for complaint-the rich man in truth sparing his own flocks and herds, and seizing the lamb of the humble. What way by law lies open for his redress? None that I see, save to allow him to destroy the intruders at his pleasure, and that point once granted the game laws fall. Here then, as often as such a case occurs, the shoe pinches but will not an opportunity for like oppression be found under half the Acts contained in the Statute-book? and are the Gentry of England come to that state of unfeeling selfishness and wanton cruelty, that they will refuse compensation in such a case? If so-and there are hearts which will allow their possessors so to act-no laws can be made to remedy the evil: if private charity is denied, can laws give an equivalent? I say no, and that there are rife examples to bear me out. There must be events in life, in which, if men will not do well voluntarily, no laws can compel them, and the case in point I hold to be of such sort.


The case of a small farmer farming his own land contiguous to large preserves is another that is continually brought forward as exemplifying great hardship. Should he be so small as to be unable to pay the tax imposed upon a certificate, doubtless it is so, and must be looked upon in the same light as the case of the cottager: but otherwise, the remedy is feasible enough, and what is looked upon as a cause of loss may be made the means of profit if the farmer will. The sale of game being now legalized, his plain course is to take out his certificate, kill, and sell with game at its present price, it cannot well happen that he will find himself out of pocket. But I have seen it proposed, that everybody should be allowed to kill game, but that the sale of it should be forbidden. Should the first part of this proposition be carried out,

it would, I imagine, tend greatly to the total abolition of game, not the avowed end which these reformers seek to attain; for by it, a man with an acre of ground would be able to kill half the pheasants that harbor over an hundred adjoining acres; and the same may be said of other game. This would be manifest injustice to the owner of such adjoining land, and, being an injustice, would not of course be agreeable to those who oppose the present law for bringing about a similar result. Nor is the case bettered by the following clause forbidding the sale ; for if it could be effectually prevented (which has been proved previously to the present Act to be next door to an impossibility, for people will eat dainties by hook or by crook), all the benefit would be taken away from the general permission to kill; inasmuch as there would be no room for profit from game when dead, except the prevention of future damage: and even this would not arise should the neighbours be sturdy sportsmen, regardless of the additional expense consequent on the new law. The sale of game prohibited, and the small farmer loses either his remedy of legitimately making money by the game he catches, or else forfeits his respectability. No disability by law to destroy game, and the undisturbed sale of it, would present too fair an opportunity for gain, not to make every little piece of ground near well-preserved estates a mere trap for the game-dealer: whilst, under the present law, the majority of those who feel oppressed by the game on their land have a remedy consistent with their honesty, and although neither adequate protection to game nor perfect justice is now given, yet we had by far better remain in the present condition than adopt an alteration which does not divest the game laws of the objections consequent upon the very existence of game. In fact, I hold that those who advocate the total abolition of game, who would make a law for its destruction, to be far more consistent than such as make an outcry for change, yet bring forward no plan whereby entirely to fling the expense of feeding game upon the man on whose ground it happens to be when it falls to the gun; until which is done, it is not to be said that equity is administered.

The great distress at present unfortunately prevalent amongst the lower orders serves in its turn the ends of each party who take into their heads to decry and agitate against a particular law. With some it emanates as plainly from the working of the New Poor Law, as with others it is a clear deduction that it owes its origin and continuance to the oppression of Corn Laws; and the Anti-Game Gentlemen are not a whit behindhand in turning this misery to their own purpose. "It is a hard thing," say they, "that a poor man out of work, with a starving wife and family, should see some hundred pheasants or hares feeding in one field, and yet should be punished if he kill one of these free animals to satisfy his wants." With quite as much sense and feeling on my side, I may exclaim, "How cruel and unjustifiable is it in these times, when hunger walks the streets, that butchers and bakers, keepers of eatinghouses and confectioners, should be suffered so wantonly to expose their proud abundance of meat and tempting food, not merely reminding the poor gazer that he is without the means of purchasing them, but prompting him to break and steal !" Let the latter people have as few guards as the preserver of game, so as to equalize the risk of detection, and the cases are almost parallel: I should have said quite parallel, but that

I would make some allowance for that innate love of sports which so generally sways the English. At all events, if the argument does not apply with equal force on this account, yet it does certainly apply to a very great extent in every instance where property of any value is exposed more than absolutely necessary. The Lady, who wears brilliants in her ears and on her neck, giving the hardy pickpocket the temptation of a snatch, sins in this as much as the landowner who allows a pheasant or a partridge to walk unharmed upon his farm. The loss of human life is not an unfrequent consequence of poaching: but is the foul spot of bloodshed to rest on the preserving landowner more than upon him in the defence of whose gorgeously furnished mansion either servant or burglar has fallen?

Again, I would say, where will such an argument rest? Follow it out fairly through the present state of society, and the absurd deductions which necessarily follow are more than enough to prove its fallacy.

If there is anything in these few remarks of truth or common sense, is not this the fair conclusion-either the protection afforded to game must altogether be abandoned, inasmuch as the sole expense of its feeding cannot be made to rest upon the person who takes it; or the hardships occasioned by preservation must be included amongst those cases where the few in turn suffer for the good of the many?

I would ask those who are now loud in their complaints, "Are you prepared to go to the length of putting a complete end to all rural sports? -for hunting must fall with the destruction of game, as it is defensible only upon the same principle-and do you consider that the advantages derivable to a few from such a course will compensate for the ills that must arise from depriving those who live in the country of the means of rational out-door amusement? not to mention those who use these pleasures as a source from which to refresh their minds for more important and weighty tasks, which occupy them in town during the greater part of the year, and who will be obliged to seek abroad those relaxations that are denied them at home. This must be the question at last; and it would amply repay me for the trouble of committing my thoughts on the subject to paper, could I see it dispassionately answered.

I have said my say, and only wish that the hand that I have raised to make an apology for our country's sports had been one of a less feeble character, and more capable of exposing sophistry and misrepresentation. LACK-LAND.

In a late Number of a jocular Journal (which had better keep to jokes) is a song, not more remarkable for its beauty of expression than for the illustration it affords of the abuse of talents for the purpose of misrepresentation. It is intitled "The cry of the partridge :" the burthen is, that now the blood of man is considered of less value than that of a bird -a false malicious libel on English laws and Englishmen.

As I have spoken in defence of the preservation of game, it may not be out of place to offer a suggestion which may tend to its peaceable protection. In every street in London are to be met itinerant vendors of grouse, not only in but out of season. This year I saw both partridges

and game hawked about town before the 12th of August. These men derive their supply almost totally from poachers, and should be informed against, as well as those who buy from them.

Again: most of the licensed dealers sell game after the close of the proper season: grouse especially. Norway is said to send them; but it is well known to those who inquire into the subject, that not a few of these birds have seen our Scottish moors: this should be also looked to. On conviction, no part of the penalty goes to the informer, so this open breach of laws goes unpunished: a small sum, very insignificant compared to the vast amount expended for the sake of game, would suffice to keep three or four active men in employ as informers: it would not be a slight blow to poaching, and if the plan should be deemed feasible, a subscription might be opened at the Office of the SPORTING MAGAZINE or elsewhere.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]



"Nothing extenuate nor set down aught in malice."

MY READER and myself may be now supposed to have arrived at a
spot where we have Gray's Inn, Verulam Buildings, with sundry other
buildings and courts (all inhabited by Gentlemen of the Law), to our
right (quite right to leave them there)-and the Repository on our
left. Some person may think that I have brought him into a very
pretty dilemma; for, turn which side he may, he has a very fair chance
of being done. What might be the result of turning to the right I can-
not say; but by taking the other turn, I will answer for his coming out
unscathed. Besides, there is another thing to be considered: if he
should not like this place, he need not go there again-a sequitur not
always to be relied on by those who pay a visit to the other.
medio tutissimus ibis," they say: now, if we did this, we should run
plump into a brewery; and really I am not certain, that, if we were
tempted to take a solution of cocculus indicus, it would be altogether
so safe an alternative. "Quanti vivono in questo mondo alle specie di
questo e di quello!" This may be applied to all three places; so we will
at once turn into Osborn's.


Reader, do you see that elderly person in a plain frock-coat, with a pair of shoes, or boots, whose soles would create wonder even with a Folkstone fisherman? That is Mr. Henry Osborn-in the vocabulary of his very old customers, and many very old customers he has, "Harry Osborn"-by whom, if your appearance and address proclaim you a Gentleman, I will answer for it you will be received with the deference due to your rank in life; or if they denote your being merely a respectable man, you will be treated with the attention and civility due to

« ForrigeFortsæt »