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confinement was recognized and en- wish for solitude, provided he may forced by a positive legislative enact- be indulged in laziness ; if human men nearly eighty years ago.
nature will admit of such a situation, also find that it was successfully carried The spirit of Britons disdains the out in the prison of Petworth ; and thought of inactivity : they must be we find it also in operation in the gaol doing good, or evil; their busy mind of Horsham, in the same county. must have employment, or it will be This shows that this system was no
miserable." With such homely vigour novel or untried invention, unsuited of expression did this acute writer to the character or unfit for the treat- point out the imperfections of the Act. ment of the criminals of these king- And it is remarkable that there is doms. It also incontestably establishes scarcely an improvement in the latest the fact that the system is British;- and most elaborate plan of Separate British in its origin, British in its confinement which has not been disapplication, and British in its legis- tinctly laid down, and recommended lative sanction.
for adoption, with wisdom that may While, however, we attach great be justly called oracular, in the importance to the just cited Act, we writings of that eccentric but farcannot deny that it is in some re- sighted philanthropist.
In 1785, spects imperfect; for though it a House of Correction was ordered to provides that offenders shall, during be built at Petworth, pursuant to the their hours of labour, in case the provisions of the 22nd Geo. III., cap. nature of their employments will 54. The ground was presented by the permit, be kept separate and apart Earlof Egremont,—whose well known from each other," yet labour in com- princely mansion, with its glorious mon, but under the constant superin- gallery of painting and sculpture, tendence of an officer, was permitted. adorns the immediate vicinity of that Accordingly this part of the Act did
town,--and the plans were furnished not escape the caustic censure of the by James Wyatt. This prison affords celebrated Jonas Hanway. “At the earliest example of the complete length,” observes that extraordinary adoption of the Separate System in man, the legislature resolve on a the kingdom, and we might add in plan of wonderful construction ;-it the world. “The rooms of the prison," is to be solitude and no solitude ; the says Howard, “are on two stories, prisoners are to be separate, and they over arcades ; sixteen on each floor, are to work together; that is, they thirteen feet three inches by ten feet, are to be secured in separate apart- and nine feet high. The chapel is in ments at night, but in the day they the centre, and has thirty-two pews, may associate ; and 600 men and 300 each three feet by two feet two inches. women are to be so managed as to The sides are so lofty that the prison. produce reformation by means of a ers cannot see one another, though they capital prison, called a penitentiary! are all within the view of the chaplain. This method might be calculated to Some prisoners were kept here for to prevent their breaking prison ; but two years without injury to their not for repentance.” And as to the healtň.” The system was kept up apprehension that the prisoners would until 1816, when they began to employ not work, if left to themselves in so prisoners in the factory. This was litude, he says,
“ This should by no owing to the great increase of prisoners means intimidate us in the pursuit of at the termination of the war, and the plan of separate confinement, for occasioned a great deterioration of the prisoners will generally be inclined discipline ; in fact, it amounted to a to work, to relieve themselves.” As total subversion of the system of seto the system of the Maison de Force, parate confinement, and to a sacrifice at Ghent, which the Act had too closely of all the advantages held out by it. It followed, he quaintly but unanswer- is now sixteen or seventeen years since ably observes, “That prison cannot we visited Petworth, in company with be our rule ; the daring mind of our Whitworth Russell ; and well do we people being very different from theirs. remember the surprise and satisfaction A Flanderkin, with some of the re- with which he viewed a realization mains of the indolence of his former in his own country of that very plan masters, may not be kept so easily to of improved prison discipline which work alone as in company. He may he had formed ou reflection and study,
in conjunction with his colleague Wil- and intricate in its construction, unliam Crawford, and which till that equal to the end at which it professes hour he had supposed to exist only to aim, and dependent for its successin the imagination and fancy of him- ful working upon agencies which its self and his associate. Yet while this advocates cannot ensure us. If it prison was standing as a momento of possesses any good qualities, they are Howard and Hanway, and a present contingent and accidental, while its example of their enlightened views, defects are necessary and inherent. the Government were groping about Against what does this system set for a model, and sending their Com- itself in opposition ? Against a law missioner to America, in search of of nature-against the communion of what lay under their nose! But the man with his fellow-against the wonder is not so much that this prison most deeply seated and most ineradihad been thus overlooked, as that the cable instinct of humanity--the wish system carried out in it with complete to hold intercourse in thought and success should be suffered to sleep feeling with those who are placed for for nearly fifty years. True, the plan hours, and days, and months together, had been in operation until 1816, as withinsightand hearing of each other; we have said ; but who was the wiser and that too while they are under the for it? Who brought the fact under very circumstances which impart an public notice? What member of the edge to the desire of mutual acquaintgovernment, or of the legislature, ance. Doubtless a dozen or a score of made it the basis of a method of na- passengers may be associated in a railtional utility ? For anything that way carriage for hours without the exconcerned the interestsof
the kingdom change of a single word between any at large, the Petworth House of Cor- two of them. But this arises from rection might have been in Kamt- their ignorance of the present circumschatka, at Timbuctoo, or in the moon. stances and destination of each. Let But not only was there an example of those fellow travellers be bent upon a the cellular system about this time at common point of pleasure or of busiPetworth, but also at Gloucester, and ness, and the case becomes immeat Horsham, where the discipline was diately changed. Those who had administered with similar success. never met before will soon make each Still all the evils of gaol association other's acquaintance; and you will find were permitted to go on; and until the it no easy task to interdict or suspend first report of the Inspectors of Pri- all intercommunication. The case is sons for the Home Department star- beyond all comparison stronger betled the united kingdom by their tween fellow-prisoners. graphic delineation of the foul abomi- stringency of the regulations that forations that disgraced the metropo- bid all intercourse between them litan prison of Newgate (1834), no only acts as an incentive to ingenuity step was taken to grapple with the to baffle them; and we know well abuses of our penal system.
what adroitness and tact the human An attempt-it was no more—to mind and frame acquire by practice, palliate those evils, was made by the when the man is impelled by necessity, projectors of what is called the Silent or strong inclination. System; they were well-meaning men, attempt to evade the rule of enforced who wished to get rid of the horrible silence is detected, no one will be and loathsome abuses of the plan of hardy enough to affirm. But some association, but did not clearly see notion of the extent to which that their way, nor understand the nature evasion is carried may be formed from of the subject with which they under this recorded fact, that in the prison took to deal; and as the Silent System of Coldbath Fields, in which the syscrosses our path in our progress to a tem was carried to its highest state of sounder plan, we will at once sweep perfection, the punishments for “talkit away, and demolish it root and ing and swearing” amounted in 1836 branch, bark and foliage.
to no fewer than 5,138 ! Consider, We affirm then, that the Silent too, the posture of the prisoner's System, originating in a conviction of mind while occupied in attempts, the great and manifold evils of gaol often successful, to elude the vigilance association, and a desire to guard of the monitor, or while amused in effectually against them, is cumbrous watching and secretly applauding
such attempts on the part of others : gation of punishment, which such recan any one believe that under such moval brings with it. It is plain, circumstances he can receive any sa- also, that the qualifications required lutary impression of the penal nature in a monitor must be sought for in of his position, or have any inclination vain in the guiltiest class of prisoners, or opportunity for self-examination out of which the monitors must comor reflection ?
monly be selected. Can we expect But there is a still stronger objec- to find in such, alertness, temper,vigiltion against this system. Its warmest ance, firmness, industry,habits ofobediadvocates admit that they cannot ence, and integrity ? Yet these are carry it into operation without the the characteristics of a good monitor. employment of means which are ob- Besides, how can such a system as viously opposed to the spirit of the this be made universal ? In some constitution, and to the first principles prisons it will work well, because it of substantial justice; they confess is well worked ; in others, which are that they must be permitted to inflict out of the range of public view, and punishment for every detected viola- where suitable officers cannot be tion of the prison rules. How fre- found, the whole will break down. quent those punishments are, we have If the sole end at which a good system already seen. How unjust they are of prison discipline ought to aim is plain. How calculated they are to were, to prevent, by whatever means, irritate and exasperate the prisoner the prisoners from audibly conversis sufficiently obvious. The prisoner
The prisoner ing with each other, we should admit himself is not slow to perceive all that the Silent System had not been this. He sees that the privations that wholly unsuccessful. But if, in securing occasion him most discomfort are not this end, the means have been ill-dethose to which he has been legally vised, harsh, and of uncertain efficacy; sentenced : he feels that he is en- if, while the prisoner is forbidden during sufferings over and above to articulate sounds, he has the opporthe awards of law, and, stung by tunity of making and exchanging the injustice, his sense of his guilt significant signs; if, by a system of is overborne by that insurgent spirit refined surveillance, his mind be kept wisely implanted in us all, which perpetually on the fret, and diverted impels even the most degraded to from the contemplation of his own withstand oppression in whatever conduct and condition, and directed garb it may wear, and from whatever to the invention of devices for defeatquarter it may approach us. And ing his overseers, or for carrying on a who are the agents which the Silent clandestine communication with his System chiefly employs to enforce its fellow-prisoners; deriving no benefit, harsh regulations? Prisoners them- in the meantime, from the offices of reselves, men as deeply stained with ligion, nay, converting the most solemn guilt as those whom they are employed of his religious offices into an opporto coerce. The culprit sees this too, tunity of conversing with his fellows; and he sees it with feelings little then we say that the benefits of the fitted to reconcile him to his treat- Silent System are dearly purchased ment. "The oldest thief makes the by the measures it employs to obtain best monitor," has become a gaol them. apophthegm. This alone suffices to And all this intricate machinery is ensure the condemnation of the sys- constructed for what? tem; for here it is plainly implied pose of overcoming difficulties which that it treats with the greatest leni- its founders have themselves created! ency those culprits whose guilt is They assemble together social beings, deepest, by setting them to watch interdict communication between over, and report for punishment, them, and then punish them for yieldthose who are less criminal than ing to that most powerful of human themselves. As the prison punish- impulses—the desire to interchange ments—punishments for violating the thought with those with whom they are prison regulations--mostly consist in compelled to associate.
Here is a reduction of food, this is followed by difficulty contrived with perverse ill-health ; then comes removal to ingenuity, as if merely for the purthe hospital, with all the relaxation pose of surmounting it; and when it of discipline, and consequent miti- fails (as it must perpetually) revenges
For the pur
itself upon the prisoner for the re- hold no communication whatever, missness of the officer ! And you sub- either by sight or hearing, with any ject the untried to it! Why, the fellow-prisoner. This is the plan ditficulty and hardship of the System which, as we have already seen, comare felt chiefly in its earlier stage. The mended itself nearly a century ago untried prisoner is perplexed and to Howard, and still more distinctly worried by a multiplicity of intricate to Hanway; which was exemplified at and minute observances, which are Petworth, Horsham, and Gloucester, enforced by punishments. So that which was advocated in England by an untried and possibly innocent Bishop Butler, Sir William Blackstone, prisoner undergoes the sharpest por- Lord Mansfield, Dr. Paley, Sir Samuel tion of the discipline. But there is Romilly, Mr. Wilberforce, Archbishop even a worse evil than any we have Whately, Lord John Russell
, Earl Grey, yet noticed—the evil of recognition. Sir James Graham, and Sir George A man unjustly accused, able to es- Grey; in France by M. de Beaumont,M. tablish his innocence, and discharged de Tocqueville, M. De Metz, M. Lucas; without a stain upon his character, in Belgium by M. Ducpétiaux ; in may receive an incurable wound in Germany by Dr. Julius, and other his reputation from the mere circum- distinguished jurists ; in Poland by stance of his having been associated, Count Skarbek ; in Sweden by the for a period however short, with com- King. Before its general adoption in panions of vicious habits and tainted Europe it had winged its way across morals, and being subsequently re- the Atlantic, and was so extensively cognized by them. Consider how deep and successfully adopted in the United and overwhelming are the anguish States of America, that its revival in and dismay with which a person of England soon followed, and it settled unblemished character contemplates once more in the land to which it his committal to prison. In urging owed its birth. the necessity of shielding an innocent It was in the year 1838 that the member of society, as far as is prac- Rev. Whitworth Russell and Mr. ticable, from an evil so dreadful as Crawford presented to Government, this, we are not more powerfully sus- in their capacity of Inspectors of Pritained by the dictates of reason and sons, the elementary principles of a humanity, than by the very spirit of sound system of penal discipline, the law itself, which guards with ex- which, after a long and patient retreme and justifiable jealousy the search and inquiry, had been carefully rights and feelings of innocence. elaborated by them. Of that system
We have now done with gaol associ- the isolation of the criminal from his ation, and its miserable succedaneum fellow-prisoners was the basis. Under the Silent System ; would that the the system propounded by those emikingdom had done with them too! nent prison reformers the solitude of We boast, and it is a just boast—that the cell was alleviated by important we have not one law for the rich, and moral elements, calculated to sustain another for the poor. But we have the mind, and to promote reformaone punishment for the North, and tion, while the punishment remained another for the South-one for the sufficiently severe.
To this system East, and another for the West. We they gave the distinctive name of punish leniently in Newgate the very THE SEPARATE SYSTEM ; and they resame offence which we visit with commended the erection of a Metropoliseverity at Pentonville. And that tan Prison, both as a model and as an we shall continue to do until we have experiment as to its results. Thus uniformity of system, and one form originated the Prison at Pentonville. of penal discipline for the three coun- Lord John Russell was then Secretary tries. What shall that be?
of State for the Home Department, What shall that be? This is a and first gave official sanction to the question which every man is now proposition. At the time of the computting to himself and to his neigh- pletion of the prison, Sir James Grabour : and it is a question which, we ham had succeeded to the adminisare bold to say, admits of but one tration of that department; and the answer,--the Separate System ; the commissioners nominated to conduct confinement of each prisoner in a the experiment included statesmen separate apartment, in which he can and professional men of great eminence.
These were, the late Lord Wharn- our firm conviction, that the moral cliffe, then Lord_President ; Lord results of the discipline have been John Russell, the Duke of Richmond, most encouraging, and attended with the Earl of Devon, the Earl of Chi- a success which, we believe, is without chester, the Speaker of the House of parallel in the history of prison disCommons, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Dr. cipline." Well, the reader will natuFerguson, Major (now Lieut-Col.) rally say, “Have you any more ReJebb, Mr. Crawford, and the Rev. ports to the same effect ?" Alas, Whitworth Russell. It was impossible now must change those notes to trato have formed a commission more en- gic.” “What,-has the system broken titled to the confidence of the country. down ?" No; the system has been On the 22nd December, 1842, the pri- subverted ! Without any reason, pubson was opened for the reception of licly and officially assigned for the convicts under sentence of transporta- change, the grand principle of the tion, who were to undergo there a con- Separate System, that which gave finement of eighteen months, and then name to it, that which gave efficacy to to complete the term of their sentence it, that which wrought effects at once in a distant clime.
so encouraging and so marvellous in For five years this system continued the eyes of the Commissioners, and in operation, without any important
which drew from them those expresmodification, with beneficial effects sions of satisfaction and admiration upon the mind, health, and morals of which we have just cited, -the strict the prisoners far exceeding what its and uninterrupted isolation of each founders had ever anticipated. The prisoner was, without any publicly Yearly Reports of the Commissioners assigned, and, we venture to say, during the whole of this period attest without any assignable cause, comthe excellence of the system in the pletely subverted. We have a right most unequivocal terms. In the to demand, and we do now solemnly Second Report, after the first year's demand, an explanation of this. How experience, they say, “There exists came it to pass that a system of priabundant proof of the moral and re- son discipline, which had been origiligious improvement of the prisoners.” nally devised by the most renowned In their Third Report,
philanthropists that ever dignified perience gained during the last year human nature; which had been tried, has fully confirmed the opinion we and marked for sterling, by the most before expressed, and has multiplied wary and perspicacious minds that the facts upon which that opinion ever turned to the subject; was founded.” The Fourth Report which had won by its intrinsic excelreiterates the same conclusion : lence the approbation of the whole “ The experience of another year, civilized world ; which had wrought strengthened by the highly gratifying effects so unparalleled, that it would account which we have received as be the bitterest of sarcasms to call regards the conduct of the prisoners upon any other system that ever was who have been sent abroad, both dur- constituted by man, to produce the ing the voyage and subsequent to like,—how came it to pass that that their arrival in Australia, has more system should have been silently, strongly than ever impressed us with and we blush to say it, hitherto althe value of this corrective and refor- most without remonstrance,* bereft matory system of prison discipline.” of that which alone gave it vitality The Fifth Report repeats the fore- and effect—the strict separation of going statements, and contains the prisoner from prisoner ? In addition following remarkable passage : _“On to this, the term of imprisonment was reviewing these opinions, and taking reduced from eighteen months to advantage of the experience of another twelve. year, we feel warranted in expressing In the absence of all evidence as to
to The ex
* Not wholly without remonstrance. We have now before us a volume entitled, “ Results of the System of Separate Confinement, as administered at the Pentonville Prison;" by the Rev. John T. Burt, Chaplain of the New Prison at Birmingham, who was for nearly twelve years Assistant Chaplain at Pentonville, in which he indignantly denounces the unwarragıtable alteration.