Wednesday, 19 September 1888
The forcible letter which we printed yesterday from "S.G.O.," on the lessons of the Whitechapel horrors, was not likely long to stand alone. It has, indeed, straightway called forth a very pertinent communication, which will be found in another column, from the Rev. S. A. BARNETT, the well-known Vicar of St. Jude's, Whitechapel. "S.G.O." deals with the general question of the correlation between vicious social conditions and such crimes as those which have lately stricken the East-end with terror, while MR. BARNETT points the application to Whitechapel in particular. We are too apt to assume that such crimes as these are altogether abnormal. We attribute them to some enlarged maniac with homicidal tendencies, or to some monster in human shape who has contracted a fiendish taste for blood and butchery. It would be salve to our complacency if this were really the case. "S.G.O.," however, forbids us to lay this flattering unction to our souls. He is a social student of life-long experience. He tells us that we have sown the seed and must expect to reap the harvest. "At last," he says, the crop is ripening; at last we are beginning to see what is the meaning and result of the existence in our midst of "tens of thousands of our fellow creatures begotten and reared in an atmosphere of godless brutality, a species of human sewage, the very drainage of the vilest productions of ordinary vice." The language is strong, no doubt, but the facts upon which it is founded are, unhappily, even stronger. MR. BARNETT, than whom there is no better authority, does not affect to dispute them. We seem to have listlessly acquiesced in the existence of these kitchen-middens of humanity; to have treated them as though society must keep a receptacle for the collection of its waste material. We have long ago learned that neglected organic refuse breeds pestilence. Can we doubt that neglected human refuse as inevitably breeds crime, and that crime reproduces itself like germs in an infected atmosphere, and becomes at each successive cultivation more deadly, more bestial, and more absolutely unrestrained? It is not that the amount of crime necessarily increases in proportion to the increase in its intensity. On the contrary, just as a house is all the cleaner because its rubbish and refuse have all been shot away out of sight, so society at large may show a smaller percentage of crime when its vicious and criminal refuse has all been segregated in particular spots. MR. BARNETT says that the criminal haunts of Whitechapel and the East-end are of limited extent, that the greater part of Whitechapel is as free from abnormal vice and crime as any other part of London. We can well believe it, and we should expect to find that those who know the East-end best would say that its general condition is far better than it was a generation or two ago. But the murders have been committed. They were bound to come, says MR. BARNETT, and they are not the worst fact in the experience of those who know the East-end.
In truth, these are terrible words, and the pity of it is that it is so hard to gainsay them. We are still hopelessly groping for the perpetrators of these loathsome crimes. To detect them and punish them is the first duty that society owes to itself. But it is not the only duty. We have to consider how far our social organization is responsible for the preparation of the soil and atmosphere in which such crimes are produced. If the diagnosis of "S.G.O." is correct, the crimes in question are the unmistakable symptoms of a most virulent social disease. He may be wrong in the particular case, but there can be no doubt of the existence of the disease and of its well-nigh unlimited capacity to bring forth fruits of almost unimaginable evil. The more we purify society at large, the more certainly does its impure remnant sink to the bottom and form a sediment of concentrated depravity. We speak often enough of the political residuum; but we speak and think far less often of the moral residuum ever present with us, though, as we may hope and believe, slowly decreasing in quantity, in which lust and vice are altogether unbridled and even crime is almost unrestrained. MR. BARNETT suggests certain practical methods of dealing with this residuum. We must root out those petty but pestilential Alsatias which are well known to the police and are, nevertheless, allowed a licence which would never be tolerated in other parts of town. The Home Office, it appears, has never authorized the employment of a sufficient force to keep decent order inside the criminal quarters. We should have thought that the very existence of quarters recognized as criminal was a scandal to civilized society. Criminals are surely the last people in the world which should be permitted to congregate together. Yet it is well known that there are localities in London which no decent person could venture to approach unless escorted by the police. In these infamous dens are bred and nurtured the miserable wretches to whom at last such crimes as those of Whitechapel become possible. Humanity there loses its native stamp and takes on the temper and impulses of a beast. This is a matter for improved and extended police supervision. We cannot expect to get rid of the criminal classes altogether, but at least we should be able to prevent their collecting together and infecting a whole neighbourhood. Adequate lighting and cleaning is the next remedy suggested by MR. BARNETT. This is easy to say and very difficult to do. Light, air and cleanliness all mean expenditure, and the districts in which these dens exist are already more or less poverty-stricken. With the best will in the world, they cannot do much to help themselves. What is called charity is too often blind, and as often does more harm than good. Personal service and the care of the individual by the individual are needed to drive out the demon of uncleanness, moral and physical, and this result can only be attained by the cultivation of a quickened sense of social unity and fellowship. The East and the West are correlative members of a single social organization. London at large is responsible for Whitechapel and its dens of crime. If the luxury and wealth of the West cannot find some means of mitigating the squalor and crime of the East, we shall have to abate our faith in the resources of civilization.
Another suggestion is that a sustained effort should be made for placing the control of tenement houses in the hands of responsible landlords. Here again, the thing is far easier said than done. If it is true, as, no doubt, it unhappily is, that vice can afford to pay more than honesty, it is to be feared that there will always be found men, and women too, who will batten on the profits of vice. But there is something wrong in a system which accumulates lease upon lease, so that the superior landlord never knows, or cares to know, by what infamous traffic his rent is really paid. Publicity is probably the best remedy for evils of this kind. There ought to be no difficulty in discovering, and no reserve in making public, the names of all those who derive a profit, whether as landlords or middlemen, from tenements known to be the haunts of profligacy, vice, and crime. Much good, again, may be done by the purchase of such property by men who will take care that it is no longer put to the base uses which contaminate a whole neighbourhood and engender crime in all its hideous variety. Here once more we come back to the necessity of personal service and the care of individual by individual. Social fellowship is, after all, the true remedy for social disease. It is nothing more nor less than the old answer to the old question, .Who is my neighbour?. Unhappily for all of us, the Whitechapel murderers and their victims are the neighbours of every Londoner. Can we say that we have done all that our duty to our neighbour requires of us? The very crimes themselves are an accusing answer to the question. We cannot contemplate the life which these unexampled horrors reveal without feeling a quickened sense of responsibility for such features of it as human effort rightly applied can either abate or remove. That the evils on which "S.G.O." so forcefully dwells are, as he says, increasing, we hesitate to believe. Their volume is probably diminishing, under the influence of those powerful ameliorating agencies which education, sanitation, and a generally quickened sense of social duty have set at work; but the intensity of what remains may, nevertheless, be increasing. However this may be, the existence of an evil which produces such hideous results is an intolerable social reproach. Either we must make fresh and determined efforts to extirpate it, or we must acquiesce in the desolating conclusion that our social organization demands for its base a festering mass of unexplored and irredeemable iniquity.
Several reports were current in London yesterday as to discoveries by the police in connexion with the Hanbury-street murder; but the value of the clues said to have been obtained is extremely doubtful. One statement is to the effect that on the day of the murder a man changed his clothes in the lavatory of the City News Rooms, Ludgate-circus, and left hurriedly, leaving behind him a shirt, a pair of trousers, and a pair of socks. The attendant threw the discarded clothes into the dustbin, and they were carted off in the City Sewers cart on the following Monday. The police are said to be endeavouring to trace these clothes, but decline to give information on the subject. It is obviously difficult to conceive why the murderer, having possessed himself of a change of clothes, should pass from Whitechapel to Ludgate-circus and change his dress in a quasi-public place such as the City News Rooms. The police, however, will thoroughly sift the matter.
Charles Ludwig, the German charged yesterday at the Thames Police-court with being drunk and threatening to stab, was at once connected by popular imagination with the murder. Our police report will show that some of the circumstances of the case seem to support such an hypothesis. The youth who was threatened early yesterday morning stated to a correspondent that the first he saw of Ludwig, as he calls him, was about a quarter to 4 o'clock. The prisoner was then at the top of Commercial-street, in company with a woman, whom he was conducting in the direction of the Minories. "I took no notice of this at the time," added the witness, "except to make a remark to a coffee-stall keeper. In about a quarter of an hour the woman ran back in a state of fright, as it seemed. At any rate she was screaming and exclaiming, ' You can't do that to me.' Again I thought little of it, as I only fancied she had had some drink, but within five minutes the prisoner came up and asked for a cup of coffee at the stall where I was standing. He, at all events, was drunk, and would only produce a halfpenny in payment for the coffee which was given him. I suppose he noticed me looking at him, for he suddenly turned round and asked in broken English, ' What you looking at?' I replied that I was doing no harm, but he said, 'Oh, you want something,' and pulled out a long penknife, with which he made a dash at me. I eluded him and snatched from the stall a dish, which I prepared to throw at his head, but as he retreated after making the first dash I only called to a policeman who was near by and had him arrested. He is slightly built, and perhaps about 5ft. 6in. in height, dark complexioned, and wearing a grizzled beard and moustache. I should think he is about 40 years of age. There is something the matter with one of his legs, and he walks stiffly. I heard that at the police-court this morning he pretended not to understand English, but his English when he addressed me was plain enough, though broken; and besides, when the officer who had him in charge told me on the way to Leman-street to see that he did not throw anything away, he at once dropped the penknife - which had till then been in his possession - as if the idea of getting rid of it had only just occurred to him. I have never seen him before. " Ludwig entered the employment of Mr. C. A. Partridge, hairdresser, the Minories, a fortnight ago last Saturday. On Monday night last he went to an hotel in Finsbury, where he had previously lodged, and remained there until about 1 o'clock in the morning. He produced a number of razors, and acted in such a manner that some of the inmates were quite frightened. The landlady of this hotel states that on the day after the last murder in Whitechapel Ludwig called early in the morning and washed his hands, stating that he had been injured. Another person has alleged that there was blood on the man's hands, but as to this the landlady cannot speak.
Sir, - Is it not time that the inquest on Annie Chapman should close, and a verdict of "Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown " be given?
The question which the jury are soon to determine - viz., how, when, and where the deceased met with her death, and who she was - is virtually solved.
The discovery of the murderer or murderers is the duty of the police, and if it is to be accomplished it is not desirable that the information they obtain should be announced publicly in the newspapers day by day through the medium of the coroner's inquiry.
Sir, - Whitechapel horrors will not be in vain if "at last" the public conscience awakes to consider the life which these horrors reveal. The murders were, it may almost be said, bound to come; generation could not follow generation in lawless intercourse, children could not be familiarized with scenes of degradation, community in crime could not be the bond of society and the end of all be peace.
Some of us who, during many years, have known the life of our neighbours do not think the murders to be the worst fact in our experience, and published evidence now gives material for forming a picture of daily or nightly life such as no one has imagined.
It is for those who, like ourselves, have for years known these things to be ready with practical suggestions, and I would now put some forward as the best outcome of the thought of my wife and myself. Before doing so, it is necessary to remind the public that these criminal haunts are of limited extent. The greater part of Whitechapel is as orderly as any part of London, and the life of most of its inhabitants is more moral than that of many whose vices are hidden by greater wealth. Within the area of a quarter of a mile most of the evil may be found concentrated, and it ought not to be impossible to deal with it strongly and adequately. We would submit four practical suggestions: -
1. Efficient police supervision. In criminal haunts a license has been allowed which would not be endured in other quarters. Rows, fights, and thefts have been permitted, while the police have only been able to keep the main thoroughfares quiet for the passage of respectable people. The Home Office has never authorized the employment of a sufficient force to keep decent order inside the criminal quarters.
2. Adequate lighting and cleaning. It is no blame to our local authority that the back streets are gloomy and ill-cleaned. A penny rate here produces but a small sum, and the ratepayers are often poor. Without doubt, though, dark passages lend themselves to evil deeds. It would not be unwise, and it certainly would be a humane outlay, if some of the unproductive expenditure of the rich were used to make the streets of the poor as light and as clean as the streets of the City.
3. The removal of the slaughter-houses. At present animals are daily slaughtered in the midst of Whitechapel, the butchers with their blood stains are familiar among the street passengers, and sights are common which tend to brutalize ignorant natures. For the sake of both health and morals the slaughtering should be done outside the town.
4. The control of tenement houses by responsible landlords. At present there is lease under lease, and the acting landlord is probably one who encourages vice to pay his rent. Vice can afford to pay more than honesty, but its profits at last go to landlords. If rich men would come forward and buy up this bad property they might not secure great interest, but they would clear away evil not again to be suffered to accumulate. Such properties have been bought with results morally most satisfactory and economically not unsatisfactory. Some of that which remains might now be bought, some of the worst is at present in the market, and I should be glad, indeed, to hear of purchasers.
Far be it from any one to say that even such radical changes as these would do away with evil. When, however, such changes have been effected it will be more possible to develop character, and one by one lead the people to face their highest. Only personal service, the care of individual by individual, can be powerful to keep down evil, and only the knowledge of God is sufficient to give the individual faith to work and see little result of his work. For men and women who will give such service there is a crying demand.
I am, truly yours,
SAMUEL A. BARNETT.
St. Jude's Vicarage, Whitechapel, Sept. 18.
At the Thames Police Court, Charles Ludwig, 40, a decently attired German, who professed not to understand English and gave an address at the Minories, was charged with being drunk and threatening to stab Alexander Finlay, of 51 Leman street, Whitechapel. Prosecutor said at 3 o'clock on Tuesday morning he was standing at a coffee stall in the Whitechapel road when Ludwig came up in a drunken condition. The person in charge of the stall refused to serve him. Ludwig seemed much annoyed and said to witness, "What are you looking at?" He then pulled out a long bladed knife and tried to stab witness with it. Ludwig followed him round the stall and made several attempts to stab him, until witness threatened to knock a dish on his head. A constable came up and he was then given into custody. Constable 221 H said that when he was called to take the prisoner into custody he found him in a very excited condition. Witness had previously received information that Ludwig was wanted in the City for attempting to cut a woman's throat with a razor. On the way to the station the prisoner dropped a long bladed knife, which was open, and when he was searched a razor and a long bladed pair of scissors were found on him. Constable John Johnson, 866 City, deposed that early on Tuesday morning he was on duty in the Minories when he heard loud screams of "Murder" proceeding from a dark court. The court led to some railway arches and was a well known dangerous locality. Witness went down the court and found the prisoner with a prostitute. The prisoner appeared to be under the influence of drink. When asked what he was doing there, he replied, "Nothing." The woman, who appeared to be in a very agitated and frightened condition, said, "Oh, policeman, do take me out of this." The woman was so frightened that she could then make no further explanation. Witness got her and the accused out of the court, and sent the latter off. He walked with the woman to the end of his beat, when she said, "Dear me, he frightened me very much when he pulled a big knife out." Witness said, "Why did you not tell me that at the time?" and she replied, "I was too much frightened." He then went and looked for the prisoner, but could not find him, and therefore warned several other constables of what he had seen and also gave a description of the prisoner. Witness had been out all the morning to find the woman, but up to the present time had not been able to do so. He believed the prisoner worked in the neighbourhood. Mr. Saunders remanded the prisoner for a week. Considerable excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood owing to the rumour that the prisoner was connected with the recent murders in Whitechapel, and that some important discoveries would result from his capture.