chapter  VII
15 Pages

Recognition and Regulation of Prostitution in the Army and Navy.

WE have now reached that stage of our inquiry, which enables us to 'Consider how far the existence of prostitution should be taken cognizance of by the law, and what means, if any, should be adopted towards controlling or repressing it, and remedying or alleviating the evils attendant on it. It is a well known maxim that the law cannot remedy every wrong, or insist upon the fulfilment of every obligation. To do this, would be simply to instal itself in the place of conscience, to whose influence, however impotent in many cases, the carrying out of the moral law must in a great measure be remitted. In like manner the legislature is compelled to leave to the individual conscience questions of morals and of honour. If it strays from this rule it can scarcely avoid falling into tyranny. We have already had occasion to notice the fact that serious evils result from the attempt to suppress immorality by legislative enactments, and that the law which attempts to arrogate to itself too great an influence, ends in making itself ridiculous, while undue efforts to restrain, provoke resistance and thereby actually increase the mischief that they attempt to repress. It is important to check public excesses; it is essential to respect private liberty. The truth of this position is now recognised in most civilized countries; but the principal European states refuse to shut their eyes to the existence of an evil that threatens if left to itself to assume the proportions of an overwhelming public calamity, and therefore seek to regulate its action and alleviate its mischief. The question has arisen.in England, whether our know-nothing and do nothing system is not somewhat wanting in common sense and worldly wisdom, and whether measures analogous to, though not identical with, the foreign systems should not be introduced into this country. It is reasonable to expect the existence of great variety of opinion on this question. We may, I think, in considering it, divide the great mass of the community into free agents and persons under disability. It is obviously unreasonable to deal with both classes in a manner precisely identical, and whatever opinion we may entertain as to the impolicy of state intervention in the former case, we must, I think, admit the possibility at least of benefit accruing from it in the latter. May we not in fact go a step further, and lay down this prin-

ciple, that wherever the state places men under disability, it lays itself to a like extent under obligations to them, and that in all cases where the causes of evil can be clearly traced to the public necessities, it is bound, if it can not remove them, to alleviate and mitigate, so far as possible, the corresponding evil results.* In other words, wherever prostitution is by the state made a necessity, it is bound to regulate it ; and those who are exposed by the state to its influence, must so far as possible be shielded by the state from the mischiefs arising from it.