Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

English Civilization and Infantine Slavery.*

English Civilization and Infantine Slavery.*

The inner character of a people is much tested by their pleasures and recreations. The glitter of Civilization, as it is called, covers a multitude of abominations. The Gladiatorial Conflicts at Rome, a high state of refinement, revealed a really savage and uncultivated people. So with the Bull-fights in Spain; nor can the English claim exemption from the general charge. The Cock-pit, the Bull-bait, the Prize-fight, though now prohibited by law, are not yet extinct, and the journals of nearly every week show the continuance of the taste, and a desire to renew these sanguinary and attractive spectacles.

We boast ourselves as, no doubt, vastly superior to the Chinese in civilization, though they are a people who could read and write, long before we were a nation. We revile many of their customs and usages, but omit to cast a reflex glance on our own. Their Civilization permits them to get rid of their superfluous babies by throwing them into the rivers, and so, by their early and easy death, to be relieved of a burden. Our Civilization, it seems, permits us to hand over or hire our children to a course of sin, suffering, and sorrow, and so, by the agency of these helpless creatures, thrive on the profits of their moral degradation.

Of all the words in the English dictionary, there is no one so much perverted as the word Civilization; and so it is with the equivalent term in the dictionary of every language. It is used to imply Magnificent Buildings, Galleries, Lectures on Science, Libraries, Theatres, boundless Amusements, lots of Clubs, abundance of Newspapers, Magazines, Novels, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." The grand moral rights of every individual, as such, of the Human Race are forgotten under the glare of these superficial institutions. High culture of mind by no means leads, of necessity, to strong feelings of humanity. We see it in the Athenians—the same people who wept over the "Antigone" of Sophocles, would adjourn to their public assembly, and there decree a thousand prisoners to death, and as many more to slavery. Our page 5 inhumanity is not so extreme, and it is more indirect; but, in principle, there is not much difference. The working men and women, who have been justly indignant at some wrong done to others; the more easy and leisurely classes, who have almost fainted under a sensational novel, will pass the same evening to witness the torture and danger of infantine Gymnasts and Acrobats, or revel at the sight of groups of childish dancers, who, as those spectators henceforward will know (if they suspect it not already), are trained to a career of sin, misery, and ruin.

To this form of slavery the English people have not, as yet, shown any general repugnance. They will, probably, adhere to it very tenaciously; and Miss Barlee is perhaps, doomed to find that, in assailing the amusements of the public, she has undertaken an enterprise as hard of accomplishment as the abolition of the trade in negroes, or the amendment of the factory system.

And, indeed, were the law to attempt the regulation and supervision of all the many details attendant on the perpetration of these cruelties, it would be non-plussed at almost every step. It could, perhaps, render us some little service by an enactment, strictly enforced, that no one should be permitted to appear in these Exhibitions until he or she had attained the age of seventeen years. The long delay, before profits could be realised, would cut off the hope of repayment for the costs of training and maintenance.

The conductors of Penitentiaries, the Committees of Asylums and Rescue Societies, and the like, should direct their attention to this state of things, and see whether it is not an abundant source of supply to their sorrowful institutions.

* From the Introduction to Miss Barlee's Book, "Pantomime Waifs."