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SUPERIORITY OF THE SOLITARY SYSTEM.
ed to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, is specially intended to lay before the British Government their opinions of the “Silent System,” as far as they had witnessed its operation in such few of the prisons of England as had yet adopted it. They admit its decided superiority to the old system of criminal association, which had hitherto been universally followed in the prisons of Great Britain; but they still contend that it is greatly inferior to the “Separate System” of Philadelphia ; and in the development of their opinions, and the statement of the facts and reasons on which these are founded, they specially advert to the discipline of the prison at Auburn, which they had carefully examined, and express their convictions in the following terms:
“We will next consider the evil of recognition, with reference to its effects upon a prisoner who may be led or inclined to repent of his guilt, and to resolve upon an honest course of life. Whether the man really repents, or feels an inclination to return to honest courses, or to listen with serious attention to the admonitions which he may have received, this evil will operate upon him with a disastrous influence. In the former case, by steady perseverance in the path of industry and honesty, he may succeed in gaining the character of a useful member of society; but he will live in constant apprehension of having his good name suddenly and irremediably forfeited by the recognition of an abandoned fellow-prisoner, who may be tempted to expose the past delinquencies of the penitent, of whom, but for the previous acquaintance in prison, he might never have had the slightest knowledge. The separated, isolated villain is comparatively innoxious; it is combination concentration of force, talent, and artifice—that renders wickedness formidable to society; and this combination is effected, consolidated, and organized within the walls, or at the very gate, of the prison more than anywhere else.”
There remains, after this, but one other branch of this subject to make the review of it complete, and that is, to contrast with these proved disadvantages of the Auburn system the great superiority and complete efficiency of the Philadelphia system ; and this can be in no way so effectually done as by laying before the reader the brief yet comprehensive summary of Dr. Lieber, as contained in his letter already referred to. In enumerating the benefits of the union of uninterrupted solitude with labour, which is the characteristic of this system, he says:
"1. It prevents effectually contamination, and it alone can effectually prevent it. It allows the offender, at any rate, not to grow worse.
“2. It is essentially both a stern and humane punishment; stern, because solitude is stern in its character, and especially so to men who nearly, without exception, have spent their lives in boisterous intercourse with fellow-criminals; and humane, because it is a privation rather than an infliction. It is mild, and acknowledged as such by the offenders themselves, after the first irksomeness of solitude has passed, especially if they have passed previously through several other prisons or penitentiaries.
" 3. It is emphatically graduable and accommodable as no other species of punishment. The offender, undisturbed by others or by new
inflictions of punishment, receives from solitude just that impression which his peculiar case or disposition calls for or is capable of.
“4. Advice and exhortation can be adapted to each single case in no other punishment, so precisely and justly like moral medicine, as in solitary confinement. The religious adviser, assistant, and comforter can enter the solitary cell at any time, and, as all religious conversations with a convict must have much of the character of a confession, the undisturbed cell, overheard by no one, is the very place for this converse. In no other penitentiaries can this religious instruction be given so effectually.
“5. Solitude is the weightiest moral agent to make the thoughtless thoughtful-o reflect, and the only one sufficiently powerful for the criminally thoughtless. Solitude has been sought by the wisest and best of mankind, to prepare themselves for great moral tasks; it is the only means to bring the offender to a more rational course. Labour united with solitude gives steadiness to the thought, and makes it possible to support solitude with ease for those who have not been accus. tomed to abstract reflection before.
“6. It is the only punishment known which does not irritate anew, does not challenge opposition in mind or body; for it is the only punishment which can dispense with the whip or other means of coercing to obedience, because it takes away the opportunity of offending anew, with the exception of such offences as destroying instruments or materials, for which, again, the more disciplinary means of withholding labour or diminishing rations are sufficient.
"7. It makes the lonely prisoner love labour as faithfully as the dearest companion-a companion who will be with him for life.
"8. Ii does not deaden shame by exposure ; on the contrary, it shames many into repentance, by its absence of all harshness, as I frequently, have found. It does not inflict on those who have a strong sense of shame the additional punishment of exposure.
"9. It does not expose the convict to acquaintance, even by night, with other criminals, who out of the prison form a very compact fraternity, to escape from the clutches of which forms the most difficult obstacle in the way of resuming an honest life. The history of innumerable convicts proves this.
“10. It contradicts, for the first time, by irresistible fact, the convicts in their belief that society is at war with them, in which they please themselves so much that frequently they argue as if they were the hunted, the pursued, the injured.
“11. The punishment has, therefore, what I have called an elevating character. It touches the man in the convict, not the brute. The convict sees himself treated as one on whom far different things than stripes can have an effect.
“12. It is, perhaps, the only punishment which allows us to select men for superintendents of prisons, in whom sternness does not overbalance kindness.
“ 13. It trains the convict in cleanliness, and paying attention to the neatness of his dwelling; it imparts an attention to the room, which be. comes the incipient stage of love of home with those who have lived in slouchy disregard of it. It is an old English saying, full of meaning, * Cleanliness is next to godliness,' A strictly cleanly man of the labouring classes will never be so much exposed to offend against the laws, as a disorderly, dirty person. Cleanliness, a highly important ingredient of national civilization, is equally such in political reform.
14. All the reasons given in favour of the Pennsylvania play assume still higher importance with the youthful or first offenders, because their minds are yet more ready to receive good impressions, and they have not yet formed that close association with criminals of older standing,
5 15. It appears to me a great advantage of the Pennsylvania system that the prisoner is not prevented by false shame from lending his ear to better counsel, and gradually changing for the better.
“ 16. The convict thinks in kindness of his keepers, and the memory of the penitentiary is not a galling sore when he has left it, and chooses to live by his labour.
“ 17. This system depends less upon the skill of the officers, or a long apprenticeship, than the Auburn system, in order to make it answer at all. The Pennsylvania system, therefore, is easier to be introduced.
" 18. It is sufficient with our race, and at the stage of civilization we are now in, and no more, which is what a punishment ought to be. This point, which by experience alone, i. e., by close and circumspect observation of reality, not by hasty numbers and rash conclusions, can be de. cided, appears so to us; and none of us have seen reason as yet to change his opinion.
“ 19. Finally, it offers the greatest security, being in this superior to all other species of imprisonment.”
It is impossible to add to this without weakening its force, except to say that the most careful examination and most mature deliberation make me concur in all the writer's sentiments on this subject; and if any apology should be deemed necessary for citing them at such length, it is to be found in the conviction that there is no one subject more important to the interests of humanity than the right treatment of criminals, and to no country is this of greater importance than to England.
The town or village of Auburn, in which this state-prison is seated, contains about nine hundred houses and six thousand inhabitants. It has seven churches, which are highly ornamental to the town; a beautiful courthouse, with an Ionic portico and circular colonnade, supporting a dome and crowned by a lantern, all in the best architectural taste; an academy, and a museum. The villas on either side of the town are among the prettiest we had seen, and the houses of the interior are substantial and spacious. The American Hotel is an excellent establishment; the streets are well proportioned; the River Owasco runs through a part of the town, passing the state-prison, and furnishes water-power for mills and manufactures; and, taken altogether, we thought it, from our first and second impressions, to be one of the prettiest towns on the western route.
Journey to Syracuse. ---Male Academy and Female Seminary: -Salt Springs at Salina.
-Water-lime.—Railroad. - Locks.-Canal.--Tunnel under the Canal.- Depth of Vegetable Mould.--Spontaneous Vegetation.-Muster of the Militia.- Unpopularity of this Body:-Museum of Syracuse. --Scriptural Group of Saul, Samuel, and the Witch of Endor.-Onondaga Indians.
We left Auburn on the morning of Monday, the 10th of September, at seven o'clock, and travelled
by the railcars on a wooden railroad, drawn by two horses, to Syracuse, the distance being twenty-five miles, and the time occupied about three hours. We found comfortable accommodations at the Syracuse House Hotel, and remained there for two days.
The town of Syracuse is one of the most recently settled of all the larger places along this route, it being not more than twelve years since the first house in it was built; yet it already possesses about $00 dwellings, many large warehouses and stores, an excellent hotel, with many smaller but still comfortable public inns, a bank, a courthouse, seven churches, including Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist
, Universalist, and Unitarian, and a population of nearly 7000 persons. It is pleasantly situated, har. ing the Onondaga Lake about a mile from its northwestern edge, and fine undulating hills, with the elevated village of Onondaga, formerly the county-town, on its southern border ; while gentler elevations, east and west, connect it with the level land that ex. tends along the line of the great Erie Canal in these directions, Syracuse, indeed, like many other places along this tract, owes its first existence and its present prosperity to this canal, which has caused many villages and towns to spring up and flourish along its whole extent, that, without its agency, would not, for many years at least, have been erected.
At this moment Syracuse enjoys the benefit of lying both in the stage-route and in the line of canal conveyance from the Hudson to Lake Erie; so that more than 1000 persons, by all the different conveyances, pass through it, on an average, in each day. A railroad is in progress from hence to Utica, which cannot fail to increase this number greatly; and the elements of prosperity in and around the town itself are so abundant as to make it certain that in a very few years its size and population will be doubled.
The streets are regular and of great breadth, from 80 to 100 feet; the houses and stores are, many of them, of stone and brick; and few, except the original buildings, continue to be of wood. The courthouse is a large and substantial edifice, though it lies beyond the verge of the town on the north, instead of being, as is
usual in similar cases, in the centre. The cause of this inappropriate situation is said to have been a contest between the neighbouring villages of Salina and Syracuse as to which should have the courthouse, and thus bring to it the transaction of the county business; when the relative strength of the rival parties was found to be so nearly balanced that a compromise was recommended, which was agreed upon, and, like most compromises, satisfied neither party; for the courthouse now stands nearly midway between the two villages, and in a position equally inconvenient to both.
A fine academy for the education of male youths stands on the eastern verge of the town. It is a substantial brick structure, and cost 20,000 dollars in the erection. It has at present 60 pupils, and is increasing in reputation. It was founded at first by individual subscription in shares; but now receives, like other public institutions of this nature, an annual grant in aid from the Legislature of the state, in proportion to the number of pupils engaged in studying the higher branches of education. A female seminary has also been just established at Syracuse, in which a classical and mathematical, as well as an ornamental, education will be given to young ladies on nearly the same plan, and at the same expense, as at the Ontario Female Seminary at Canandaigua; so rapidly are the means of education multiplying all around, to keep pace with the increasing population.
In the immediate vicinity of Syracuse are some remarkable saltsprings, which are producing great gain to their proprietors, affording extensive occupation to labourers, yielding a considerable revenue to the state, and attracting population every day to this quarter. There are four special localities in which these springs are at present worked, and around each a village of some size has gathered. There is one at Salina, one at Liverpool, and one at Geddes, three villages surrounding the borders of the Onondaga Lake (which is six miles long and two miles broad), distant from each other only two or three miles, and one at Syracuse, an equal distance from them all.
We visited Salina, the oldest and largest of these springs, in company with the superintendent, Mr. Wright, to whom we had been introduced by Mr. Marsh, of the Syracuse Bank, who accompanied us also in our excursion, and from both of whom we received every information and attention we could desire. It appears that the salt-spring here was well known to the Onondaga Indians inhabiting the borders of this lake long before any white settlers had come among them; and they had discovered it in the usual way of tracking the wild deer to it, when they came at certain seasons to lick the salt from off the surface of the earth; the spot being hence called, in the language of the country," a deer-lick.” Since the settlement of the whites, however, the value of this spring has become well known, and, accordingly, extensive works for the