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Chapter 27 The Same Subject Continued.

  • THE next morning I communicated to my wife and children the scheme I ha_lanned of reforming the prisoners, which they received with universa_isapprobation, alleging the impossibility and impropriety of it; adding, tha_y endeavors would no way contribute to their amendment, but might probabl_isgrace my calling.
  • "Excuse me," returned I, "these people, however fallen, are still men, an_hat is a very good title to my affections. Good counsel rejected returns t_nrich the giver's bosom; and though the instruction I communicate may no_end them, yet it will assuredly mend myself. If these wretches, my children,
  • were princes, there would be thousands ready to offer their ministry; but i_y opinion the heart that is buried in a dungeon is as precious as that seate_pon a throne. Yes, my treasures, if I can mend them I will; perhaps they wil_ot all despise me. Perhaps I may catch up even one from the gulf, and tha_ill be great gain; for is there upon earth a gem so precious as the huma_oul ?"
  • Thus saying, I left them and descended to the common prison, where I found th_risoners very merry, expecting my arrival; and each prepared with some gao_rick to play upon the doctor. Thus, as I was going to begin, one turned m_ig awry, as if by accident, and then asked my pardon. A second, who stood a_ome distance, had a knack of spitting through his teeth, which fell i_howers upon my book. A third would cry "amen" in such an affected tone a_ave the rest great delight. A fourth had slily picked my pocket of m_pectacles. But there was one whose trick gave more universal pleasure tha_ll the rest; for, observing the manner in which I had disposed of my books o_he table before me, he very dexterously displaced one of them, and put a_bscene jest-book of his own in the place. However, I took no notice of al_hat this mischievous group of little beings could do, but went on, perfectl_ensible that what was ridiculous in my attempt would excite mirth only th_irst or second time, while what was serious would be permanent. My desig_ucceeded, and in less than six days some were patient and all attentive.
  • It was now that I applauded my perseverance and address, at thus givin_ensibility to wretches divested of every moral feeling, and now began t_hink of doing them temporal services also, by rendering their situatio_omewhat more comfortable. Their time had hitherto been divided between famin_nd excess, tumultuous riot and bitter repining. Their only employment wa_uarrelling-among each other, playing at cribbage, and cutting tobacco-
  • stoppers. From this last mode of idle industry I took the hint of setting suc_s chose to work at cutting pegs for tobacconists and shoemakers, the prope_ood being bought by a general subscription, and when manufactured, sold by m_ppointment; so that each earned something every day-a trifle, indeed, bu_ufficient to maintain him. I did not stop here, but instituted fines for th_unishment of immorality, and rewards for peculiar industry. Thus, in les_han a fortnight, I had formed them into something social and humane, and ha_he pleasure of regarding myself as a legislator, who had brought men fro_heir native ferocity into friendship and obedience.
  • And it were highly to be wished, that the legislative power would thus direc_he law rather to reformation than severity. That it would seem convinced tha_he work of eradicating crimes is not by making punishment familiar, bu_ormidable. Then, instead of our present prisons, which find or make me_uilty, which enclose wretches for the commission of one crime, and retur_hem, if returned alive, fitted for the perpetration of thousands; we shoul_ee, as in other parts of Europe, places of penitence and solitude, where th_ccused might be attended by such as could give them repentance if guilty, o_ew motives to virtue if innocent. And this, but not the increasin_unishments, is the way to mend a state; nor can I avoid even questioning th_alidity of that right which social combinations have assumed of capitall_unishing offences of a slight nature. In cases of murder their right i_bvious, as it is the duty of us all, from the law of selfdefence, to cut of_hat man who has shown a disregard for the life of another. Against such al_ature rises in arms; but it is not so against him who steals my property.
  • Natural law gives me no right to take away his life, as by that the horse h_teals is as much his property as mine. If, then, I have any right, it must b_rom a compact made between us, that he who deprives the other of his hors_hall die. But this is a false compact, because no man has a right to barte_is life any more than to take it away, as it is not his own. And besides, th_ompact is inadequate, and would be set aside even in a court of moder_quity, as there is a great penalty for a very trifling convenience, since i_s far better that two men should live than that one man should ride. But _ompact that is false between two men is equally so between a hundred or _undred thousand; for as ten millions of circles can never make a square, s_he united voice of myriads cannot lend the smallest foundation to falsehood.
  • It is thus that reason speaks, and untutored nature says the same thing.
  • Savages that are directed by natural law alone are very tender of the lives o_ach other; they seldom shed blood but to retaliate former cruelty.
  • Our Saxon ancestors, fierce as they were in war, had but few executions i_imes of peace; and in all commencing governments that have the print o_ature still strong upon them, scarcely any crime is held capital.
  • It is among the citizens of a refined community that penal laws, which are i_he hands of the rich, are laid upon the poor. Government, while it grow_lder, seems to acquire the moroseness of age; and as if our property wer_ecome dearer in proportion as it increased; as if the more enormous ou_ealth, the more extensive our fears, all our possessions are paled up wit_ew edicts every day, and hung. round with gibbets to scare every invader.
  • I cannot tell whether it is from the number of our penal laws, or th_icentiousness of our people, that this country should show more convicts in _ear than half the dominions of Europe united. Perhaps it is owing to both,
  • for they mutually produce each other. When, by indiscriminate penal laws, _ation beholds the same punishment affixed to dissimilar degrees of guilt,
  • from perceiving no distinction in the penalty, the people are led to lose al_ense of distinction in the crime, and this distinction is the bulwark of al_orality: thus the multitude of laws produce new vices, and new vices call fo_resh restraints.
  • It were to be wished, then, that power, instead of contriving new laws t_unish vice, instead of drawing hard the cords of society till a convulsio_ome to burst them, instead of cutting away wretches as useless before we hav_ried their utility, instead of converting correction into vengeance, it wer_o be wished that we tried the restrictive arts of government, and made la_he protector, but not the tyrant of the people. We should then find tha_reatures, whose souls are held as dross, only wanted the hand of a refiner;
  • we should then find that creatures now stuck up for long tortures, lest luxur_hould feel a momentary pang, might, if properly treated, serve to sinew th_tate in times of danger; that as their faces are like ours, their hearts ar_o too; that few minds are so base as that perseverance cannot amend; that _an may see his last crime without dying for it; and that very little bloo_ill serve to cement our security.