Because they have just subscribed to Eighteenth-century Collections Online (“every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in Great Britain during the eighteenth century, along with thousands of important works from the Americas”).
I don’t even know where to start. Obvious keywords (if you’re me): murder, robbery, highwayman…
I have just discovered something I hadn’t heard of before. Some of you will know Henry Fielding’s book, An enquiry into the causes of the late increase of robbers (1751). That’s in ECCO, unsurprisingly. I didn’t know, however, that his book occasioned responses such as ‘Philo-patria’s’ A letter to Henry Fielding, Esq; occasioned by his Enquiry into the causes of the late increase of robbers. (I wonder if there are any more like this?)
Philopatria takes the view that the prime cause (the ‘fountain-head’) of robbery is “Debauchery”, and ticks Fielding off for not including in his book a section on “how to suppress Debauchery among the lower kind of People”. The answer: legislation “for the Discovery and Conviction” of prostitutes – and get rid of them by transportation. (Well, it’d have cheered up the convicts in the colonies, I suppose.)
… the only way to prevent their [robbers’] Increase, and wholly to extirpate them, is, to prevent Debauchery, to rid this great Metropolis of lewd and infamous Women; who most certainly are the Engines, that set them to Work, and for whose sake they hazard their Lives. …
Also, Philopatria would really rather like it if “all Places of public diversions” were suppressed except under strict licensing laws, and only rich people in private houses should be allowed to gamble (as an “innocent Amusement”).
I think I might transcribe it; it’s only 10 pages or so. It’d be fun to add some more texts to Hanging not punshment enough.