This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In Philadelphia, there is what is called a "prison agent," who goes through the penitentiary and has power to procure the release of prisoners, or a shortening of the time of those he may think deserving. The report for the year is before us, and amongst other items, we find the case of " two boys who were accused of stealing flowers from a garden. As they had only taken a flower, the agent employed counsel," by whose efforts they were acquitted. Every once in a while we see some newspaper paragraph reflecting severely on some individual because he dared to prosecute some "respectable person," who "only took a flower," or an apple, or may be a bunch of grapes; and if perchance after spending perhaps fifty dollars, besides time and vexation, in thus protecting his property, and the thief gets sent down to prison for thirty days or so, there are stinging comments on the justice which sends a person to prison for stealing a ten-cent bunch of grapes, when he would perhaps have received no more punishment if he had taken a three-hundred dollar horse.
It is strange that it should be necessary to point out that laws are made as much to assert and defend principles as to mete out measure for measure. An able-bodied, useful man is of more direct value to society than a babe. We do not say it was " only a babe," and sentence its murderer to a year's imprisonment, while we hang the murderer of the useful man. On the contrary, the law is presumed to protect more energetically the weak than the strong, and for this reason alone the fruit and the flower grower should have more legal protection than the owner of a horse. The latter has strong personal reasons for locking up his horse, and for prosecuting when in spite of all care the horse is stolen, - but the fruit man loses some to-day, some to-morrow, and so on, till everyone on the tree is gone. He cannot lock up his tree, or build a high wall all around it, nor can he keep a sentinel day and night before it. He cannot catch all, who took all between them; he can only "make an example" of the first one he catches; and then is the cry of " he only took one. He is a respectable man." Herein we see that the fruit or flower-grower is at a great disadvantage. He is weak.
He is as a child before the law, and instead of leniency, the strongest efforts of the law should be put forth to protect him, and he should not be made the butt of ridicule, as now. In fact, the man who has the courage to prosecute the thief who took " only a flower," or "only one bunch," deserves the thanks of the whole community, and the more so when the offender is " a respectable man".