« ElőzőTovább »
system we can fully understand and appreciate its efficacy in producing that favourable state of mind which can justly value moral and religious instruction, and be most influenced by wise counsel and pious exhortations. Amongst these persons, some only know at first the letters of the alphabet, and teach themselves to read ; others, less ingenious or less persevering, cannot get on without the aid of the inspectors or of the superintendants. We have already remarked, that the critical moment is that in which the criminal is first enclosed in his cell; his releasement from prison is still more so—he passes at once from a condition of absolute solitude into the ordinary state of society ; may it not, therefore, be apprehended, that at this moment he will seek with avidity for the social enjoyments of which he has been so long deprived ? Dead to the world for years, he at last returns to society, bringing with him, no doubt, good intentions, but perhaps strong passions, rendered more impetuous as they have been so long restrained. This is perhaps the greatest inconvenience arising from perfect solitude, whilst it possesses a great advantage which cannot be overlooked-and it is, that the convicts, under this regulation, are not known to each other. This circumstance prevents great inconveniences, and produces most beneficial consequences : there is always a connexion, more or less strong, between the criminals who have become acquainted in a common prison ; and after having served out their term of punishment, they return into society, and have a mutual dependance on each other : thus, if one commits a crime, the other is almost obliged to lend assistance; or it must be, that the latter has become honest, not to have returned to a criminal state. This rock, so fatal to those who have been liberated, is in a great degree obviated in the prison at Auburn—though seeing each other, the convicts cannot contract any intimacy. But the most certain way of escaping from this danger is in Philadelphia prison, where the prisoners never see each other, consequently, when the culprit re-enters society, he does not find in the others liberated any aid in ill-doing, for he knows them not, and if he prefers an honest life, he does not meet his old associates to dissuade him from it.
This system of reform is certainly one which is conceived in a high philosophic spirit, and its principle is in general simple and easily put in practice; it operates by its own power-by the force alone of its principles. At Auburn, on the other hand, and in similar prisons, their efficiency depends more upon the person charged with the execution of those regulations. The latter place appears certainly less calculated than Philadelphia to produce reflection and repentance, because it permits the assembling together of the convicts during the day time; but on that account it is more favourable to the instruction of the convicts : under this regimen the governor and the chaplain, in their sermons and lessons, can address themselves at once to the whole body. On the Sunday, after the church
ertainly lesecution of theiency dependa, on the power-by there
service and school instruction are finished, the inmates return to their solitary cells, where they are visited by the chaplain, who also visits them on other days of the week, and endeavours to touch their hearts, whilst he relieves their consciences. These unhappy men express great satisfaction at seeing the reverend pastor enter their cells ; he is the only friend now left to them; they repose in him the utmost confidence ; if they have any grievance to complain of, or any favour to solicit, it is to him they apply for his good offices : in complying so far as may be reasonable with their requests, he testifies his concern for their interests, and obtains by degrees their entire confidence; he becomes, in fact, eventually the repository of all the secrets of their former years, and, having ascertained the moral qualities of all, he makes it his business to apply the proper remedy to each case. Attending solely to his sacred line of duty, the clergyman does not in any way interfere with the discipline of the prisons. When the convicts are engaged at their work, he never interrupts them ; if a complaint be made to him, he does not take upon himself to decide upon its merits, but merely solicits attention to the case of the complainant, and undertakes to be his interpreter.
Describing the indefatigable energy of these zealous clergymen, Messrs. Barrett and Smith, the report says, “ It would be difficult to paint, with adequate force, the activity of mind by which those two pious clergymen are inspired, who, though they may, perhaps, have made calculations upon too high a scale as to the result of their labours, yet may be assured that they are esteemed and venerated by all those who have the pleasure of knowing them.” Here we behold a true picture of the genuine character which intense love of duty to God and man alone can produce ; such men, however humble they may rank in their professional degree, are, nevertheless, at the true point of exaltation as good men, and sincere followers of “ a meek and lowly,” but Divine Master ; of such only can the “ bright and shining lights” mentioned in Holy Writ be formed, to illumine their fellow-mortals in the ways of virtue and religion. In their other arrangements they are admirably seconded by many respectable persons unconnected with the establishment. The management of the Sunday school is almost exclusively conducted by those persons, who, living within a convenient distance of the prison, and being actuated by a strong sense of humanity, combined with deep sentiments of respect for the duties of religion, enter the prison every Sunday, and continue there two or three hours, exercising the functions of primary instructors; and besides teaching their classes to read, they give explanations, when required, of the most remarkable passages in the evangelical writings. At Auburn, the pupils of a Presbyterian school perform this religious and gratuitous duty ; upon a similar plan the schools at Sing-Sing, Baltimore, and Boston, are conducted ; in the latter we have seen the most distinguished citizens devote their time and attention to these lowly duties ; and occasionally they introduce into their instruction advice of so kind and touching a description, that we have observed the prisoners sometimes shed tears of gratitude. There is, therefore, no question with us, that, if the reformation of criminals be possible, it is with such men, and by such means, that it must be accomplished.
We have not room to follow the ingenious, and indeed, rational speculations of the learned commissioners, on the efficacy of such praiseworthy exertions in working the complete regeneration of those guilty persons under their care; but those gentlemen are decidedly of opinion, from documentary facts, that though a thoroughly radical change may be very seldom expected to happen in the mind and conduct of one convicted of crimes against society, yet that a second, or legal species of reform, is very commonly observed amongst such of them as have returned into society, either through being pardoned, or from the expiration of their sentence : and this circumstance is of sufficient importance to mankind to establish the character of these penitentiary systems as quite superior to the old modes of imprisonment for the diminution of crime, and the rational reform of criminals; for as to what change may take place in the soul or conscience, man cannot judge—that the Creator alone can perceive; but for all the legal purposes of social life, if the good habits of industry, sobriety, or rather, temperance, reading, reflection, and attention to religious duties and principles, continue mechanically to guide the conduct of the released man, society is decidedly benefited by the change,-and that this improvemeut does take place, the documents will prove, for upon comparing the number of malefactors who were relapsed, or old offenders, under the common system of prisons, with persons of the same description under the new arrangements, the advantage is decidedly in favour of the latter ; for it appears by the figures, that in the old prison of New York (Newgate), those who were confined as relapsed convicts, or old offenders, were as one in nine ; in Maryland, one in seven; in Walnut Street, one in six ; and in the old prison of Connecticutt, one in four! The cypher is much less on the side of relapsed offenders, under the new system, at Auburn and Wethersfield. In the first of these, the relapsed are, in proportion to the whole number confined, only one in nineteen; and in the latter, only one in twenty. Similar results are expected from the other penitentiaries on the same model, but they have been too short a time in operation to admit of a just calculation at present.
Having now laid down the principles of the penitentiary system of America, and shown, by an appeal to facts, the good effects of those principles, we shall not deem it necessary to proceed farther in our analysis of the work, particularly as the contents of the portion which follows are merely local, and refer to the expenses of food, clothing, &c.
Art. II.-My Ten Years' Imprisonment in Italian and Austrian
Dungeons. By Silvio PELLICO. Translated from the Original. By Thomas Roscoe. 1 vol. small 8vo. London: Whittaker
and Co. 1833. We have risen from the perusal of these pages, penetrated with a profound feeling of compassion for the degraded condition to which oppression has reduced the finest country in the world, and of melancholy despondency over its prospects of future regeneration. While the other nations of Europe are hurrying forward in the career of social and political improvement, with a rapidity that almost distances thought—while every succeeding day sees them extend their sphere of action, alleviate their social afflictions, and look steadfastly forward to the hereafter which science and industry are preparing for them in the distance; in the midst of all this social movement, of this struggle of the human race, Italy presents to us the sad spectacle of a nation whose every principle of existence has been extinguished by the fierce and unrelenting press of despotism. Europe has ceased to sympathize in her misfortunes : she only speaks of her as of an ancient tradition, and if her name is mentioned, it is with indifference, not unmingled with contempt; and yet it is to Italy she is indebted for those arts and sciences of which she is so justly proud, and for the diffusion of the light of civilization amid the darkness of barbarism and ignorance. Italy possesses all the elements of social greatness, and sunk and debased as she is, the hearts of her generous millions are animated by an ardent love of liberty.
The year 1820 is in the recollection of every one as a period of trouble and perplexity throughout the Southern States of Europe. It was an era signalized by the many efforts of a revolutionary spirit which then broke forth on all sides, and threatened to overthrow thrones and temples in its course. Naples had already raised the constitutional standard, and her example had lent an impulse to the energies, and roused the activity of her more distant neighbours. Throughout the whole of the Lombard Venetian territory, secret societies of Carbonari had been organized, and everything was in readiness for a general insurrection. This movement has derived an additional degree of interest, from the fact of its being associated with the name of Byron, who devoted himself unreservedly to the cause, and whose letters sufficiently proclaim how deeply his sympathies were identified with the expected crisis which promised the regeneration of Italy. Owing to the weakness and ignorance of its partizans, the attempt proved a miserable failure, or, as his lordship expresses it, was “bungled.” The sword of the stranger asserted its supremacy, and Italy was once more replunged into barbarism. The vengeance of the government was now directed against all who had been, in the remotest degree, con
nected with the spread of the recent machinations, which had caused them so much terror and alarm. Several were executed, and more than one thousand of the noblest families were sent into exile, or consigned to the protracted torture of an Austrian dungeon.
Among the victims of this savage retribution and vindictive policy, Silvio Pellico, the author of the work before us, a native of Turin, and a man of letters, was arrested on the 13th of October, 1820, and, after undergoing a long examination before the inquisitorial tribunal of Milan, was thrown into a dungeon in the penitentiary. He has traced the history of his imprisonment without any allusion to the political subjects it involves, or to the nature of the charges on which he was examined and condemned. Carefully abstaining from this invidious ground, he has confined himself to a simple narrative of his sufferings and afflictions, and of the aids and appliances by which he was enabled to alleviate his misfortunes, and bear up against the pressure of overwhelming calamity. It is impossible to peruse this record of his afflictions, without being struck with a feeling of deep commiseration at the picture which it presents of a generous and susceptible spirit struggling to bear up against the manifold evils that would press it down and extinguish its energies; and of esteem and admiration at the freshness of feeling, the amiable sensibility, and generous enthusiasm of a character which, in every vicissitude of misfortune, and frequently under the most revolting associations, could find subjects to interest its benevolent sympathies and affections, and give a poetic lustre to scenes of the deepest misery: that, plunged in suffering, at whose intensity humanity revolts, and surrounded by objects so little in unison with the poetical temperament, he could still have preserved so much of his original tenderness of disposition, shows how rich must have been the stores of that sensibility and enthusiam, which even the multiplied evils of a rigorous imprisonment could neither chill nor exhaust.
The first hours of his calamity were spent in melancholy reflection on the effect which the intelligence of his misfortune must produce upon his family. The review of this affecting picture insensibly conducts his mind to the consideration of religion, and prepares his soul for the soothing influences of that faith, which is the riches of misery, and the consolation of the afflicted. After a careful balance of the various arguments urged for and against the truth of Christianity, he settles down in the adoption of the sublime maxim of the love of God and our neighbour, as the regulating principle of his conduct. This proved a sedative to the first tumults of his mind, and the turnkey, Tirola, is not slow in observing the alteration :
Last night (said he) you had the face of a basalisk; now, you are quite different, and I am rejoiced at it, as 'tis a sign that you are not-forgive the expression—a rogue-for rogues, (I am old in the calling, and my observa