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ART. VIII. – 1. Our Convicts. By MARY CARPENTER. London:
Longman, Brown, Longmans, Roberts, and Green. 1864.
Boston: W. V. Spencer. 1865. 2 vols. 8vo. 2. VAN DER BRUGGHEN. Études sur le Système Pénitentiaire
Irlandais. Revu après la Mort de l'Auteur, et accompagné d'une Préface et d'un Appendice. Par FR. DE HOLTZENDORFF, Professeur à l'Université de Berlin. Berlin: Librairie
Luederitz. A. Charisius. 1865. 3. Kritische Untersuchungen über die Grundsätze und Ergeb
nisse des irischen Strafvollzuges. Von DR. FRANZ VON HOLTZENDORFF, Professor an der Königl. Universität zu Berlin. Berlin : C. G. Lüderitz'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. A. Charisius. 1865.
The North American Review from 1833 to 1848 cannot be charged with neglecting the question of Prison Discipline. Within that period the works of Tocqueville, Lieber, Lucas, Livingston, Howe, Gray, and others, were reviewed in these pages, and full justice was done to the controversy between tho Philadelphia and the Auburn systems. But of late years the subject has not been discussed in this Review, and has not received, indeed, throughout the country, the attention which it deserves. There is, however, one good result arising from the long neglect in which the prison question has lain in America; it is possible, without renewing the old battles, to treat the reformation of convicts on new grounds, according to the light which European experience has thrown upon it since our countrymen ceased to concern themselves much about the matter. The strife is no longer between Separate and Congregate systems; Auburn and Philadelphia are insignificant now in comparison with Norfolk Island, Valencia, and Dublin ; it is the Irish system which now excites to controversy the practical Anglo-Saxon, the phlegmatic Dutchman, and the philosophic German. Livingston and Tocqueville have given place to Maconochie and Crofton, Crawford to Miss Carpenter, Julius to Holtzendorff, and Lucas to Bonneville de Marsangy.
It is not without mortification that an American learns this altered state of things, and perceives how little share his own
country has had in a movement so important. There was a time when the American penitentiaries were visited from all quarters of the civilized world, and the authority of our writers decided questions of prison discipline in Europe. But who now cites our example or quotes our authors? And it must be confessed that we deserve the neglect into which we have fallen, if we did not quite deserve the consideration in which we were once held. It is time for us to acknowledge, that in matters of social science we are far behind our European contemporaries ; that they understand better than we the subjects of crime and pauperism, of finance and sanitary reform ; and that they are fast gaining upon us in respect of popular education, in which we are still in advance.
And having made this acknowledgment, it is for us to see to it that this reproach — so far as it is one does not continue. The American Social Science Association has not been organized a day too soon.
While the conflict was hottest here between Auburn and Philadelphia, say from 1845 to 1849, a gray-haired enthusiast in England was publishing, in cheap tracts, a new theory of prison discipline, which has already greatly modified, and seems destined ultimately to supersede, both the Separate System of Philadelphia and Pentonville, and the Congregate System of Auburn and Charlestown. The career of Captain Maconochie was so remarkable, and is so little known in this country, that we shall be excused for dwelling upon it at some length. Lord Meadowbank and Sir Alexander Cochrane were men of note in Scotland half a century ago; the latter, indeed, made himself conspicuous at Washington about that time, and was famous in every sea where the British navy appeared, to insult or to protect. But it is doubtful if they are now so celebrated, and certain that they will not be in the next generation, as their young kinsman, Alexander Maconochie. He, too, was a canny Scot, born near Edinburgh in 1787, and at first, under Lord Meadowbank's inspiration, destined for the profession of law. But the advice of the naval kinsman, together with the
. glory of his exploits, prevailed on the lad to follow Captain Cochrane to sea. He served under him in the West Indies, where, for the first and last time, the young midshipman saw Nelson, who was soon to die at Trafalgar. He served also in European waters, and in 1810, when returning home from a cruise in the Baltic Sea, was shipwrecked on the coast of Holland. From Holland he went as a prisoner to Verdun in France, where he lay in confinement for nearly three years, until the fall of Napoleon set him free. It was this experience of prison life, no doubt, which made him so thoroughly acquainted with the habits and dangers of prisoners, as he afterwards showed himself to be at Norfolk Island and Birmingham.
In 1814 Captain Maconochie was present with his kinsman, Admiral Cochrane, at the capture of Washington, and afterwards shared in the defeat at New Orleans, where he commanded a brigade of gunboats. In 1815, while lying in the harbor of Quebec, he had occasion to try an experiment in discipline among his men, which he afterwards carried out on a larger scale at Norfolk Island, - the plan of making each member of a watch or gang of sailors responsible for the whole number. It succeeded, as it always will succeed, in the hands of a good commander.
At the close of the Waterloo campaign Captain Maconochie returned to Scotland, where he married a lady of some fortune, and lived for a while as a farmer near Edinburgh. Some time about 1830 he removed to London, where he found some of his old friends of the naval service, - among them, Sir John BarTow and Sir John Franklin, - with whom he became associated in the Royal Geographical Society, of which he was for a time the Secretary. A few years later Sir John Franklin was appointed Governor of Van Diemen's Land, and invited Maconochie to accompany him as his secretary. The invitation was accepted, and in 1836 the great explorer and the great reformer of prisons sailed for their new home. Previous to his departure, however, Captain Maconochie had been requested by the Prison Discipline Society to correspond with them on the subject of the Colonial Convict System; and also directed by Sir George Grey, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, to furnish information on the same subject to the government, which was then investigating it.
It was this circumstance which turned Maconochie's clear
and sagacious mind to the consideration of Prison Discipline, of which before he had scarcely thought. The revelations which he made, through Sir George Grey, to Parliament, and by certain publications in Australia, exhibited the whole atrocity of transportation and the colonial penal system, and led to salutary reforms; but their immediate consequence was to make him odious to the colonial residents, and to deprive him of his office. From September, 1838, to January, 1840, ho was without public employment; at the latter period he was appointed Governor of Norfolk Island, a notorious penal station in the South Sea, about nine hundred miles east of New Zealand. His able reports to the government, while they had offended some members, had convinced others that he was worthy to be trusted with power to make an experiment according to his own theories, and hence his appointment. Among those who approved — let it be said to his honor - was the present Earl Russell.
The conclusion to which Captain Maconochie had come while exploring the iniquities of Van Diemen's Land, in 1837, was similar to that which the good sense of Archbishop Whately had reached a few years earlier. In a letter to Earl Grey, Whately said :
“ The best plan, as it appears to me, would be, instead of sentencing men to imprisonment for a certain time, to sentence them to render a certain amount of labor. A fixed daily task may be imposed on them, but with power to exceed this at their own discretion, thereby shortening their period of detention. The effect would be, not only that criminals would thus acquire habits of labor, but of attaching an agreeable idea to labor. By each additional step they took on the treadwheel, they would be walking out of prison ; by each additional cut of the spade, they would be cutting a way to return to society."*
This idea (although Whately's expression of it was unknown to Maconochie) was the germ of the Work System, which, in connection with the moral appliances used, produced such remarkable results at Norfolk Island from 1840 to 1844; and which, in Ireland, under the administration of Sir Walter Crofton, has made the prisons of that country renowned for
See two letters to Earl Grey, published in 1832 and 1834. The same idea had been expressed by Whately in the London Review io 1829.
their success in reforming criminals. Let us, then, consider it a little more in detail.
We cite from a Report by a Committee of the Law Amendment Society upon Captain Maconochie's writings, drawn up in 1846, when time and four years' practical experience had matured, and in some degree modified, his views.
“1. Captain Maconochie's plan had its origin in his experience of the evil tendency of sentences for a time certain, and of fixed gratuitous gaol rations of food. These he practically found opposed to the reformation of the criminal. A man under'a time-sentence looks exclusively to the means of beguiling that time. He is thereby led to evade labor, and to seek opportunities of personal gratification, obtained, in extreme cases, even in ways most horrible. His powers of deception are sharpened for the purpose ; and even when unable to offend in act, he seeks in fancy a gratification by gloating over impure images. At the best his life stagnates, no proper object of pursuit being presented to his thoughts; and the allotment of fixed gratuitous rations, irrespective of conduct or exertion, further aggravates the evil, by removing even the minor stimulus to action furnished by the necessity of procuring food, and by thus directly fostering those habits of improvidence, which, perhaps even more than determined vice, lead to crime.
“ 2. In lieu of sentences to imprisonment or transportation measured thus by months, or years, Captain Maconochie recommends sentences to an amount of labor, measured by a given number of marks, to be placed to the debit of the convict in books to be kept for the purpose ; this debit to be from time to time further augmented by charges, made in the same currency, for all supplies of food and clothing, and by any fines which may be imposed for misconduct. The duration of his sentence will thus be made to depend on three circumstances :- First, the gravity of the original offence, or the estimate made by the judge of the amount of discipline which the criminal ought to undergo before he is restored to liberty: this regulates the amount of original debit. Second, the zeal, industry, and effectiveness of his labor in the works allotted to him, which furnishes him with the means of payment, or of adding from time to time to the credit side of his account. And third, his conduct in confinement. If well conducted he will avoid fines ; and if economical in food, and such other gratification as he is permitted to purchase with his marks, he will keep down the amount of his debits.
“ 3. By these means Captain Maconochie contends that a term of imprisonment may be brought to bear a close resemblance to adversity in ordinary life, which, being deeply felt, is carefully shunned; but