Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/133

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123
EDITOR'S TABLE.

were the fewest illiterates as compared with those where there were the most. In the succeeding numbers of the Monthly two writers, apparently accepting the statistics without question, have proceeded to draw conclusions from them. Some one has wittily said that "nothing can lie like figures"; and certainly any one who deals much with statistics knows that unless carefully and thoughtfully handled they are capable of giving the most deceptive results. For this reason startling conclusions should not be accepted without careful consideration. There is getting to be too wide a tendency to accept statistics as decisive proof on any subject without regard to how they were prepared or discussed.

In the January Lend a Hand, Mr. David C. Torrey carefully discussed the records of crime in Massachusetts, which was one of the States where Mr. Reece found his highest per cent of criminals, and some of his results seem worthy of quoting, as throwing much light on this subject:

From 1350 to 1835 the total commitments increased from 8,761 to 26,651; in the first-mentioned year, 1 to 113 inhabitants: in the second, 1 to 72 inhabitants. It is found, however, on investigation, that the increase is almost entirely confined to crimes against public order and decency, while the commitments for the more serious crimes against persons and property have not even kept pace with the growth of population. The following statistics for the years since 1865 in which a census has been taken proves this statement. This division by crimes was first made in the returns to the State in 1865, and was not made in 1875:
 
YEAR. COMMITMENTS FOR CRIMES AGAINST
Persons and
property.
Order and
decency.
1865 3,975 5,760
1870 5,097 11,290
1880 3,779 13,274
1885 4,839 21,812
 
For the more serious crimes in 1865 and 1870, the average commitments were 1 to 301 inhabitants, while in the years 1880 and 1885 they were 1 to 436 inhabitants. The increase in commitments was for less serious crimes exclusively, and there was an actual decrease in commitments for more serious crimes, in proportion to population, of forty-four per cent. The larger portion of the less serious crimes, those for which commitments are increasing, are crimes of intemperance; so Mr. Torrey makes a second division of crimes, separating those of intemperance from all other crimes. The returns to the State permit of this division for a longer period:
 
YEAR. Commitments
for intem-
perance.
Commitments
for all other
crimes.
Total com-
mitments.
1850 3,341 5,420 8,761
1855 8,221 7,811 16,032
1860 3,442 8,322 1,1674
1865 4,302 5,616 9,918
1870 9,350 7,250 16,600
1875 24,548
1880 10,962 6,091 17,053
1885 18,701 7,950 26,651
 
This division shows that the total increase in all crimes other than intemperance, taken together, has been only fifty per cent (population not considered), but that commitments for intemperance have increased nearly five hundred per cent. The commitments which were not for intemperance are compared with the population of the State with the following results: In 1850, 1 commitment to 183 inhabitants; in 1855, 1 to 144; in 1860, 1 to 147: in 1865, 1 to 225; in 1870, 1 to 201; in 1875, no statistics; in 1880, 1 to 280; in 1885, 1 to 244. From 1350 to 1865 the average commitments for crimes other than intemperance were 1 to 174 inhabitants, while from 1870 to 1835 it was 1 to 241 inhabitants. Thus a decrease of thirty-eight per cent is shown in all crimes other than intemperance during a period of seventeen years. The question of crime in Massachusetts thus resolves itself into a question of intemperance, pure and simple for it is owing to intemperance alone that there is an increase of commitments. Mr. Torrey proceeds to show that the increasing commitments for intemperance do not necessarily prove an increase of intemperance. The public has a different opinion of the crime of intemperance from what it has of other crimes. The commitments for more serious crimes could not increase without an increase of those crimes; but, because so few of the men who drink to excess are committed, there is abundant opportunity for an increase in commitments for intemperance without an actual increase of intemperance. In thirty-five years public sentiment has been aroused against intemperance, and the increased commitments caused by this sentiment and the changes in law which it has brought about are the inadequate grounds which warrant claims that crime is increasing in Massachusetts. The State seems still to have encouragement to continue its schools and its reformatories and its churches, with faith that it can not only take care of the children born to it, but also that it can assimilate to its social order those which it is forced to adopt.—Boston Post.
H. Helm Clayton,
Blue Hill Observatory, Readville, Mass., March 30, 1890.
 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

PRACTICAL ECONOMICS.

IN last month's Table we had a few words upon the discredit into which what is sometimes called the "orthodox" political economy has fallen among practical men. It is a pleasure to be able to call attention to a book which furnishes a signal example of the way in which economical studies should be pursued. We refer to the volume brought out a few months ago by Mr. D. A. Wells, under the title of Recent Economic Changes. Mr. Wells is not a dogmatist, though it is evident he has sufficiently definite opinions of his own. He conceives it to be his main business to marshal the facts that seem to him capable of explaining the present material condition of society, and of indicating the course that things are likely