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A Prisoner.—I really do not know, sir; but this I am sure of that 1 am no eaiholic, nor one of my family.
Ordinary.—Were you ever tnught the catechism?
Prisoner.—I never heard of it in my life.
At lliis very time, I have thirteen capital male convicts under my care, twelve of whom are churchmen like those whom I last mentioned, and not more than four of them can read ; the thirteenth is an Irish catholic, and is not acquainted with a single letter.
If my memory served, 1 could quote hundreds of instances of similar ignorance amongst criminals. Can it be expected, then, that such poor untaught creatures can be sensible of the immorality of their conduct? Certainly not. I am positive th . rising generation cannot be made more guilty than thejDresent, by learning to read; and therefore I am for the experiment being made; but whether by Dr. Bell's or by Mr. Lancaster's method seems to me of small consequence. Do but teach tbcm to ready and instruct them in the principles of religion, and leave the event to the Almighty.
When we consider the character of the above writer, the number o/ years during which he has honourably discharged an arduous and painful office, and the rare opportunities he must have had for observation, the above short extracts will speak more forcibly than volumes founded only on theory: here is the matter of fact;—vice and ignorance are seen going hand in hand together: and let it ever be remembered, that as the physical strengtli of a people resides in the poorer class, it highly imports every real patriot to use his utmost endeavours to enlighten this class, and thereby not only strengthen the cause of morality and virtue, but contribute materially to the welfare and stability of the state.
Public reform is a good and a necessary thing; yet without a reformation in the character of the individuals which compose that public, we cannot rationally hope that the best concerted schemes will be permanent: but whenever the individuals of a community become really virtuous, then follows, as a necessary consequence, general and effectual reform.
Remarks on the Life of Howard, and on the Police of
[Continued from p. 22.]
Ii» the last number of the Philanthropist we.conducted Mr. Howard through the several stages of his life, till he was appointed to the office of high sheriff of the county of Bedford. The performance of the duties which belong to this office, an office which the test-imposing laws of his country nearly excluded him from holding, was the immediate cause of his resolution to explore that class of the abuses of power which are perpetrated within prison walls; and which his noble perseverance to bring to public knowledge and public condemnation has rendered his name so illustrious, and his memory immortal.
The example of Howard is remarkable on many accounts; among others, on this—that he attached himself to a single class of abusrs. Other reformers have in general taken a wider range; and have endeavoured to include in their schemes of inquiry and exposure, all the abuses, or as many as possible of all the abuses, of the state. Perhaps this may be, in part at least, the reason, that Howard made so great progress, and produced so deep a conviction; and that so many other explorers have accomplished so little.
Were the practice of singling out separate classes of abuses, to become common among pubiic-spirited men; each man attaching himself to one class, and endeavouring, as Howard endeavoured, to get access to all the important facts, and lay them with their evidence before the public; all the departments of abuse would quickly be known; mischief could no where operate in the dark; every man would become expert in his own department; the general treasure of knowledge would be laid open to the public ; and improvement would be* come unavoidable, by the glaring evidence of its necessity and usefulness. Labour would thus be divided, and its productive powers would be multiplied; multiplied in that line of exertion, in which it is so pre-eminently productive of the most extensive benefits to mankind.
What advantages, for example, would that man confer
upon his country, who-would but point out the abuses which prevail in the practice of Education; through all the classes of the people; from those who are abandoned to the mere tuition of their senses and experience, like the beasts; to those who are trained to virtue or vice, to intellectual strength or imbecility, in the highest and most vaunted of our seminaries!
The public revenue of the state; the mode in which it is drawn from the people; and the vicious practices which swarm in every stage of the business, might be divided into several departments, every one of which Mould be enough for a single inquirer. The abuses of the navy, consisting partly in the abuses of the dock-yards, partly in the abuses on board of the ships, woukl afford noble employment for several undertakers. The abuses in the army are in all probability greater than those in any other department of the administrative branch of government; and yet in the particulars they are almost entirely unknown to the public. With regard to the judicative branch, the imperfections and abuses of the law. have long been the subject of bitter lamentation and complaint; but few men have done much more than to talk about them in general. The useful performance, useful both to the nation and to the constitution, would be, to go minutely into the detail; and this woukl be an Herculean task: but if one man would take up one branch of the law, and another man another branch, and pursue the inqairy with only a portion of the philanthropy and perseverance of Howard, we should have a system of far more important discoveries than even those which his exertions produced. As to the legislative branch of government; its defects, and the abuses of which jt . admits, have been far more zealously explored in this country, and more carefully laid open to the people, than those of any other department; though the legislative is, beyond all doubt, by far the most perfect branch of our government: and that alone, the comparative goodness of which prevents the inherent vices of the others from producing far more deplorable effects.
Howard says, "The distress of prisoners, of which there are few who have not some imperfect idea, came more immediately under my notice when I was sheriff of the county of Bedford; and the circumstance which excited me to activity in their behalf was, the seeing some, who by the verdict of juries were declared not guilty; some, on whom the grand jury did not find such an appearance of guilt as subjected them to trial; and some, whose prosecutors did not appear against them ; after having been confined for months, dragged back to gaol, and locked up again till they should pay sundry fees to the gaoler, the clerk of assize, &c. In order to redress this hardship, I applied to the justices of the county for a salary to the gaoler in lieu of his fees. The bench were properly affected with the grievance, and willing to grant the relief desired: but they wanted a precedent for charging the county with the expense. 1 therefore rode into several neighbouring counties in search of one: but I soon learned that the same injustice was practised in them; and looking into the prisons, I beheld scenes of calamity, which I grew daily more and more anxious to alleviate. In order, therefore, to gain a more perfect knowledge of the particulars and extent of it, by various and accurate observation, I visited most of the county goals in England *."
Such'is the account which is rendered by Howard himself of the motive to, and the commencement of, his illustrious labours. The facts are worthy of a moment's reflection.
He found three classes of persons in prison—all innocent; all recognized innocent by the law: 1. Persons declared innocent by the verdict of a petty jury; 2. Persons declared so by the grand jury; 3. Persons declared so by the prosecutor's abandoning the prosecution: that is to say, he found three classes of persons, who, without any fault of their own, had already suffered the great misfortune of being accused of a crime, and made to undergo all the restraint, all the hardship, all the mental distress, all the expense, which the procedure of justice required for ascertaining their guilt or innocence; he found these persons, after their iunoceune was ascertained, not set free, not indemnified for the hardships which, without a crime, they had been made to sustain; but immured again in the same dungeons; immured though innocent! immured, for what? for fees, &c.! That is to say, those unhappy, suffering, innocent persotis, were made to pay fees, for having been causelessly accused! They were fined: not for any thing they had done; but because they had siiffered! Because they had endured one great hardship, that of suffering, and suffering greatly, as for a crime, of which they had not been guilty, they were made to suffer another; that of paying for the misery they had undergone! what is infinitely worse than paying, they were, when unable to pay, locked up again in their dungeons! made to suffer the punishment of some of Ihe greatest of crimes—for what? For being innocent, accused, and poor! That which may happen to the best of men; that which in many, many instances has happened to the best of men, viz. to be innocently accused, is the cause for which Howard found many of bis fellow-subjects Fined; fined for the benefit of gaolers and other ministers of justice; and, when unable to pay the fines, subject to suffering, that is, to punishment, far greater, perhaps, than that which the law
* Howard on Prisons, p. 1.
Ertscribed for the offence of which, though innocent, they had ten accused f
We shall not at present dwell upon the excess of suffering to which Mr. Howard found in some instances this usage extending; viz. death in its most horrid and appalling\.shape; death by filth, hunger, and cold! It is enough to see the case in its most general point of view; the torments which it is the nature of it in the greatest number of instances to produce. That in a civilized country, any innocent person should sufler, for the administration of justice, or for any other public interest, without receiving compensation to the greatest practical exactness, is what no person in his senses will undertake to maintain.
What we should wish to know, then, is—whether, or not, any defalcation has been made from the number of persons, diclared innocent, suffering under detention for fees, from the time when Howard visited the prisons, to the present time? That certain measures have been taken, intended to produce improvement, we arc aware; but it would be good to know what practical effects they have had. It would not be very surprising, though it would be truly lamentable, if the V number of sufferers should be found to be greater now than at ^ any preceding time. ^
\Y ith all the admiration which we feel for those philanthropic persons whose bosoms are warmed with a zeal so meritorious for the interests of our suffering brethren at a distance; the blacks, for example, in Africa and America; we cannot but contrast the noble patronage which the schemes for the relief of lhe>e distant sufferers receive, and the coldness with which the case of those among ourselves who arc liable to, or actually enduring, the most dreadful sufferings, is too frequently regarded; the liltle encouragement which the best schemes for their relief in general receives; not to speak of the persecution which from so many quarters they never fail to endure.
Surely such a state of facts, as that brought to light in the •