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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter XVI. 1819
William Roscoe to the Marquis de Lafayette, [1825?]

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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“Whilst you are enjoying the purest and most honourable triumph that history records, you have friends and admirers in this country, who have traced your progress, and shared in your gratifications, with that sympathy which binds together the common friends of mankind throughout the civilised world; but, although I have the ambition to include myself in that number, I should not, for that reason, have intruded myself, at present, on your indulgence, had it not been from a wish to interest you on a subject respecting which, I am certain, you cannot be indifferent, as it regards one of the most important questions that can affect the security, the welfare, and the character of the human race.

“The system of penitentiary discipline for the reformation of offenders, adopted in the United States of America, has in many places been eminently successful, and has, in the estimate of the rest of the world, given a credit and character to that country not less honourable than that which it derives from so many other causes. I have, however, just received from Mr. Hopkins of New York, (one of the three commissioners appointed by the legislature of that state to examine the state prisons, and report such
plan of discipline as they may think best calculated for the improvement thereof,) a copy of such report, in which I am surprised, and mortified beyond description, to find that it is proposed to abandon the reformatory system altogether, and to substitute for it a plan of severe and compulsory labour, under the immediate discipline of the whip, and the continual dread of solitary confinement; both of which may be inflicted at the absolute will of the agent or jailer. On this plan I have lost no time in drawing up such hasty remarks as occurred to me on its perusal, copies of which I have sent to the commissioners, and to some of my friends in New York; and as I am well convinced that your influence would, at this moment, be more extensively felt than that of any other person in the United States, and as it can never be better exerted than in preventing such a disgrace to the country, and such an outrage against human nature as this plan proposes, I have so far ventured to intrude on your leisure as to submit to your perusal a copy of these remarks, accompanied by a small volume, being the third and last part of my
Observations on Penal Jurisprudence, which I am now on the point of publishing here; being an attempt to prevail on my countrymen to adopt an improved system of penitentiary discipline, of which, however, I fear there is but little chance whilst those insti-
tutions which I had pointed out as my models are in danger of being overturned. Whether it may be consistent with the situation in which you stand to express your opinion on the subject, you are the sole judge; but that your heart will plead for the wretched and oppressed criminal—for a criminal may be oppressed—I have no doubt; and it is in that feeling alone that I can hope to find an excuse for the great liberty I have thus taken.”