Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/84

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hind, muffled in ;i great coat, while all around, with their arms ready, marched the Town Guard. Every window in every floor of every house was crowded with spectators. 1 Happily the criminal law of Scotland was far less bloody than that which at this time There was also much less crime. While the streets and neighbour- hood of London were beset by footpads and highwaymen, in Edin- burgh a man might go about with the same security at midnight as at noonday. Street robberies were very rare, and a street murder was, it is said, a thing unknown. This general safety was due partly to the Town Guard,' 5 partly also to the Society of Cadies, or Cawdies, a fraternity of errand-runners. Each member had to find surety for good behaviour, and the whole body was answerable for the dishonesty of each. Their chief place of stand was at the top of the High Street, where some of them were found all the day and most of the night. They were said to be acquainted with every person and every place in Edinburgh. No stranger arrived but they knew of it at once. They acted as a kind of police, and were as useful as Sir John Fielding's thief-takers in London. 4 In spite of these safeguards, in the autumn before Johnson's visit there was an outbreak of crime. A reward of one guinea each was offered for the arrest of forty persons who had been banished the city, and who were suspected of having returned." The worthy Magistrates, it should seem, were like Dogberry, and did not trouble themselves about a thief so long as he stole out of their company.

The Edinburgh Tolbooth and the other Scotch gaols were worse even than those cruel dens in which the miserable prisoners were confined in England. They had no court-yard where the fresh air of heaven might be breathed for some hours at least of every weary day. Not even to the unhappy debtor was any indulgence shown. That air was denied to him which was com- mon to all. Even under a guard, said an expounder of the law, he had no right to the benefit of free air ; " for every creditor has

1 Letters from Edinfatrg/i, pp. 58-62. 3 The guard consisted of seventy-five private

3 According to Arnot, for many years pre- men. Jii. p. 506.

ceding 1763, the average number of executions 4 Arnot 's History of EJinlntrgh, pp. 502, 658,

for the whole of Scotland was only three. There and Letters from Edinburgh, pp. 355-60. By

were four succeeding years in which the punish- the year 1783, says Arnot, in his second edition,

ment of death was not once inflicted. By 1783, p. 658, their number and their character had

however, the English severity seems to have greatly sunk. See also Humphry Clinker, ii.

crept in, for in that year, in Edinburgh alone, in 240.

one week there were six criminals under sentence Scots Magazine for 1772, p. 636. of death. History of Edinburgh, p. 670.

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