Law officers in the 19th century

In England during this time the officers seem to be helpful people who do protect others. In the story ‘Speckled Band,’ we see Sherlock Holmes listening to a report from someone he has never met before and he is interested in solving this mysterious problem. It is set in Surrey so in this area law enforcement’s may be different than in other parts of England. ‘As to reward, my profession is its own reward,’ this shows that this particular officer, in this case a private detective, does not demand money from his client, yet he is still interested in this particular case, despite him not gaining anything financially from it.

However he is just a detective, and not the actual police. The lady in the story says she didn’t know who to turn to, so the police are not considered helpful. In a way Sherlock Holmes is showing police officers in that time up. This gives us a bad impression of law officers in the 19th century, although there are individuals prepared to take on the task of enforcing law. Nowadays our police officers are paid, and would complain if they were not paid. In this story, Holmes takes care for his client and ensures that she is safe from her stepfather, and wants to know where she is going and what she is going to do.

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Sherlock Holmes is taking up a case which has been dormant for two years, which came to no real conclusion, and yet, for no fee, he is happy to open up this case and attempt to solve it himself. He puts law enforcers of this time to shame. In the ‘Stolen Bacillus’ it gives a slightly different view of law enforcement. It is set in London, around Camden Town. Throughout this story, there is no mention on police or any other law enforcement people. When the man escapes with the test tube the Bacteriologist does not think of calling the police, despite his immediate concern that the test tube has gone.

We know this as he hurries out of the laboratory without his shoes and begins pursuing the man in the taxi. Throughout the chase, no police officers are around to intervene, despite three vehicles moving at high speed throughout the city. In general there seems to be a lack of officers, but when there are officers around, they do a good and efficient job. We also studied some stories based in America. They too include examples of law enforcement in the 19th century. ‘Van Bibbers Burglar’ is based in New York.

In this story we see Van Bibber himself capture a burglar who has just stolen from a house, and as we learn he has just escaped from prison. This burglar, despite having just escaped from prison, has already got his hands on a gun and burgled a house. If we were to find a man, having just stolen from a house, and with a revolver, we would call the police to help us and lock the man up, for the safety of the people in that town. However Van Bibber does not do that. ‘not even a cat or policeman moved on it. ‘ This too shows the lack of police officers and that the law is not enforced in the 19th century in New York.

In the story ‘ An Arrest,’ we see a different side to law. It is based in Kentucky, and shows a prisoner escaping from jail. He escapes by hitting the jailer round the head with an iron bar, whilst in his cell. The jailer is unarmed while guarding the cell. This shows stupidity by law officers, and that law enforcement is not organised and that there is a lack of law officers around to guard this murderer. Once escaped, we are told that ‘a posse of citizens with a pack of bloodhounds would soon be on his track. ‘ So there are no real police officers, instead the people of the town get together a group and go after the escaped prisoner.

Bloodhounds are used to hunt down the prisoner, and we can assume from this that they are likely to attack the man and even kill him, other wise these fierce animals would not be used. The lack of police officers is probably due to a lack of money. The prisoner was waiting for his trial, and the place he is being held does not seem to have any sort of security. The man’s arms were not handcuffed or tied up, an iron bar was left in his cell, and the one guard guarding him was not given any weapon to guard a murderer. This man, once caught and tried, would be hanged for committing a murder.

This is the way of the law in Kentucky in the 19th century. We looked at a film called, ‘The good, the bad, and the ugly. ‘ It is based on the American civil war from the 1860’s. In the extract we saw, we followed a man who went around killing people for money. We saw him kill over 6 people and no attempt was made to stop him by any sort of law enforcer. In the same film however, in a different area of America, we saw ‘wanted’ posters being made to capture a criminal, an award was offered for the capture of the man. When this man was caught, his punishment was to be hanged.

We didn’t see him have any sort of trial, he was just sentenced to death. This man was wanted in several towns, and offers were made in each town for a sum of money. When this man was about to be hanged, another man shot through the rope and then caught him on a horse, and they went off to another town to do the same trick, and get the award money. This shows that there is no communication between towns in America during this time, despite some money being spent on an attempt to capture the man by setting awards. We also studied a book called ‘Mice and Men. ‘ It is based in Northern California in 1937.

In this story a character named Lennie ends up breaking a ladies neck and she dies. Her husband finds out and makes up a posse of men to track down and find him. They are all armed. However this man says he wants to ‘shoot him in the guts,’ and he also orders the other men to shoot him. Despite his clear intentions in killing this man, the Sherriff is still called for . This shows us that he feels he is allowed to shoot this run away murderer and get away with it. So from these studies, we can see that law enforcement in the 19th century in America is very poor.

A slight effort is made by individuals who want justice, and occasionally there is some sort of official officer, but there seems to be no real unique law officers who provide a safe and reliable service. Also we see that once a criminal has been caught, the punishment is death, this seems harsh, but obviously it is their answer to criminals. Which shows us that there is little money to spend on prisons to hold criminals, and that it is easier to get rid of them all together, which also cuts down on crime. In England we see the same sort of problem.

There are mentions of police officers, however we never see one or have any contact with one in the story. We see in Van Bibbers Burglar about a man who has just escaped prison, and describes it as a dull and dirty place. But at least this shows us that England’s answer to criminals is prison. It may not be a nice place, but criminals are there to be punished for their crime, not to have luxury accommodations and have an easy prison life. America and England both deal with criminals in a different way, which way is the best way is not clear, but both countries believe there should be justice, and individuals set out to achieve that goal.