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Family Notices




SATURDAY, JULY 6, 1872. LORD BUCKHURST has done good service in calling the attention of the legislature to the condition of children who are trained in various mountebank performances, to the detriment of their health, the danger of their lives, and the demoralisation of their charaters. In moving the second reading of the Acrobats' Bill, the noble lord pointed out that the employment of children in such practices, was to be. condemned on many grounds. In some cases mere infants are engaged by professional acrobats for a certain term at a specific rate of remunera- tion, and thus a too ready facility is offered to unnatural parents for getting rid of their offspring, at all events for a time, and. in many instances, altogether. The revelations made during the discussion on the Bill, no doubt startled the House, and must have shocked the Bishops very much indeed. We fear, however, that the whole truth is not before the Peers. They have received second-hand statements, and the evidence is not so full and explicit in its details as could be wished. In performing the vicarious duties which devolve upon philanthropic statesmen, several of the most distinguished members of their Lordships' House have gathered information from people manifestly interested in keeping the best side of their nefarious traffic uppermost. There are abundant proofs that the whole truth has not been told, and tha t the persons from whom Lord SHAFTESBURY and his colleagues gleaned their facts were astute enough to hide the hideous practices of their calling, beneath a simulated candour. Careful, however, as their informants were to shroud the naked truth from the inquisitive noble- men who have taken the matter up; enough ,h transpired to excite feelings of indignation against the merciless tyrants who dragoon the poor young creatures into submission to their will, distort them into supple elasticity, and compel them to risk limb and life at the. very outset of their career, in order to make a profit out of them. "He believed," saidLortfSHAFTESBURY, "there were many accidents from the acrobatic performances now indulged in, and very shocking cruelty was exercised in the training of children for some of the tricks they had to accomplish. An eye-witness told him that on going his rounds he heard shrieking and piercing cries, and on ascending to the room whence they proceeded he found seven or eight children, and a weman beating them into skins which were too small for them, but in which they were to perform as monkeys and devils." This, however, is only a partial glimpse of the horrors which an ASMODEUS, if he were to unroof many houses in the metropolis and all large towns, would reveal. Children are kidnapped and submitted to the most dreadful ordeals, and young girls, whose beauty is of a strikingly attractive kind, are induced partly by the promise of finery, but prin- cipally by threats and coercion, at which those who should be their protectors connive, to engage in the disgusting performances which degrade the age and excite the condemnation and scorn of thoughtful men. It is sad to think that a want of that refined taste which is the outcome of humane feelings, should create a demand for spectacles of so reyolting a nature. Legislation has done much to repress prize-fighting, bull-baiting, and other cog- nate sports." But there are thousands of people who take a positive delight in witnessing wretched children being-thrown about in the air by what are popularly called "tmublers," twisted into all possible Shapes tinder the eye of adult "contortionists," or compelled to walk about on stilts like the shepherds of the Landes, without the necessity which those pastoral dwellers on the flat moors of France can plead. Rope-dancing, also, has its votaries, and, the vacant-minded, heedless spectators, who gaze with pleasure upon the tottering children, forced to trust themselves twenty or thirty "feet from the ground upon a slender line of wire or hemp, care very little about the risk they run or the miseries they have endured in passing through the curri- culum necessary to ensure excellence in perform- ances which BLONDIN'S daring has made more popular than ever. However, we have the authority of Mr. CARLYLE for believing that fools form the greater part of our population, and such being. the We there is a very remote possibillity. that spectacles of the kind will cease to attract. It is imperative on the Legislature, therefore, to protect those who are unable to defend themselves from the cruelty and risk which training in such pursuits involves. It is, indeed, discreditable to English civilisation that practices which were condemned by heathen nations before Christianity was known, should be tolerated in the land. But an appeal to the religious and social instincts of those who take a delight in witnessing performances which would lose their attractiveness if danger were to be eliminated from them, would be of no avail. Parliament must take action in ] £ -l- the matter, and if it cannot presume to control adults, it inay shield the neglected, helpless children from the physical and morale-degradation peeliliar-to this vulgar calling. The legislature which has passed Acts for the protection of" factory operatives of tender age, and seeks to emancipate' p young lads from galling servitude amidst the dan- gers of the niinei may well be expected to throw its segis over the poor creatures who minister to the support of parents and unscrupulous mounte- banks, by an enforced pandering to the low tastes of brutish and flippant minds. Every one who has seen FRITH'S marvellous Derby Day," will call to mind the longing, lingering look which the juvenile acrobat casts at the tempting delicacies spread out behind him, and with what a deter- mined and doggedly sullen face the adult tumbler calls upon him to go through his share in the hate- ful performance, notwithstanding the pitying gaze of the ladies in the carriage hard by. The I picture is an eloquent plea for the class whom Lord BUCKHURST seeks to serve, and as it represents a scene to be witnessed not only upon the race-course, but at fairs,, fetos, and indeed, wherever the masses most do congregate, we trust the sympathy which the spectacle in- variably excites among the humane, may grow into a deep compassion for the unhappy children, and, aided by legislative enactments, counteract the evils which have arisen from harsh severity in the past, by rendering such practices impossible in days to come.






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