Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/225

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that were on the frontier in 1850 with ten older States—the New England and Middle States, for instance. In the former the ratio of criminals has been multiplied four or five times during the past thirty years, while in the latter it has only doubled, rising from 244 to 1,148 prisoners in a million inhabitants on the frontier, and from 450 to 1,074 on the seaboard. Of course, it is obvious that in a new country there will be a certain amount of lawless conduct unpunished at first, before sheriffs, courts, and jails are in running order. But the rapid increase in the proportion of criminals, as the State grows older, does not mean more crime; it often means less. The evil-doers are arrested and sentenced, and so get into our prisons and our census; and then we are told that crime is increasing. Kansas had only 289 prisoners to each million of inhabitants in the decade before the rebellion, while it had 1,300 to the same number in the last report; yet every one knows that this State was a far more dangerous place at the earlier time than now. Colorado had only 477 offenders per million at its first census, in 1870, but in 1880 it reported 1,950, a gain of nearly fivefold in a single decade; while on the other hand the older States, like New Hampshire and Connecticut, showed an actual decrease in percentage during these periods.

But the transition from slavery to freedom was a far more efficient cause in swelling the ratio of this class. If we compare ten of the original slave States with our ten New England and Middle States, we shall find that the increase in crime in the slave States has been three or four times as great as in the free States. The former had, for each million of population, only 161 criminals in 1850, and 240 the next decade. But in 1870 they had 829, and in 1880 1,166. This was an increase of sevenfold, while the free States only a little more than doubled their criminal element.

That this was the result of the emancipation is seen in many ways. The sudden leap shows it between the decade before and after the war, or between 1860 and 1880, if 1870 be thought too near the contest to be a fair test. Those twenty years gave a gain of fivefold in the proportion of prisoners of the Southern States, while the Northern States showed a gain of less than forty per cent. Single instances reveal it still more clearly. Mississippi sprang from 67 to 1,158 criminals in a million inhabitants, and other States of the South show nearly as great a gain; while New York and Massachusetts actually declined in their criminal percentage during that time, as did some other Northern States.

The explanation is obvious. Before the war the negroes were slaves, and nearly all their offenses were punished by their masters, so that the State had no occasion to imprison them. But now, from five to ten times as many blacks as whites, in proportion to their numbers, are found in the jails or chain-gangs of the South.