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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter XVI. 1819

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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The nature and objects of punishment.—Mr. Roscoe’s attention turned to the question.—Publication of his “Observations on Penal Jurisprudence and the Reformation of Offenders.”—His idea of the true guiding principle—of secondary punishments.—Consideration of the penitentiary system.—Apathy of the public mind to this subject.—Letter to Dr. Parr, with copy of the Tract—to Mr. Basil Montagu.—He derives assistance from America through Mr. Thomas Eddy—letter to him.—Article in the Edinburgh Review against Prison Discipline controverted by Mr. Roscoe in “Additional Observations.”—Solitary confinement in America opposed in this tract—copy sent to Mr. Jeffrey—letter to him.—Corresponds with Mr. Livingston and other distinguished Americans.—Letter from Mr. Bradford, Governor of Massachusetts State Prison.—letter to Sir James Mackintosh—his reply—his remarks in the House of Commons—letter to him from Mr. Roscoe thereon.—Reforms in Denmark.—Letter from Mr. Thorkelin of Copenhagen.—Publication of “Observations” Part III.—Letter to Sir James Mackintosh—to Mr. Dumont.—Publication of “Remarks on the Report of the Commissioners for Visiting the the Prisons of New York, &c.”—Letter to Dr. Southwood Smith—to M. la Fayette, then in America—his reply.—Controversy with Mr. Allen of New York and others.—Publication of Letter to him on Penitentiary Discipline.—Series of Letters to Mr. Vaux, Dr. Mease, and Mr. Allen, published in the Liverpool Newspapers.—Change of opinion in the United States in favour of reformatory discipline.—Mr. Roscoe expresses his pleasure in a letter to Dr. Hosack of New York.

It was only late in life that the attention of Mr. Roscoe was directed to one of the most important questions in the whole range of human inquiry—the nature and objects of punishment. While various degrees of severity have been exhibited in the codes of different nations, and various theories have been proposed restricting or modifying the application of punishments, there has yet been only one prevailing principle observable throughout—the principle of fear. The criminal is considered as a being to be acted upon solely by means of terror, and utterly incapable of being governed by the other motives which usually actuate mankind. Indignant at the injury which the crime has occasioned, the lawgiver abandons all consideration for the moral character of the criminal, and contents himself with inflicting a punishment which may at once terrify him from a repetition of the offence, and impress upon others a striking lesson of the severity of justice.

To Mr. Roscoe it seemed that this system was essentially erroneous. He thought that in
attributing so superior a degree of influence to the passion of fear, legislators had made a wrong estimate of the human mind. It was his opinion that the actions of men are not only more effectually, but more easily, governed, by higher and better motives than those which terror supplies; and that it is not more reasonable to attempt to govern the vicious and the criminal by a system of unmingled severity, than to apply those principles to the control of a nation or to the management of a family. He was fully persuaded that in this, as in other instances, the only safe guide was that benevolent rule which has commanded us to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us; and that a system which disregards the moral improvement of those who unfortunately form so large a class of the community, and consigns them to punishment, without the hope of amendment, is one which not only impedes the good which a better system might effect, but is the actual and positive source of much evil.

The immediate cause which led Mr. Roscoe to employ his pen on the subject of penal jurisprudence appears to have been an application made to him in the year 1817, by Dr. Lushington, on behalf of the Society for the Diffusion of knowledge on the subject of capital punishment, requesting him to furnish the committee of the Society with a short tract, containing,
in a condensed form, the various arguments against the punishment of death. Having, in consequence of this communication, been led to examine some of the principal writers on penal jurisprudence, he found so wide a field of inquiry opened, that he was induced to pursue the subject, and to enter into an extended investigation of the principles of penal law. In the course of these inquiries he did not fail to apply to this subject the great principles which had guided his judgment upon every other question; and he quickly detected the vice of all the prevailing systems of criminal jurisprudence, in the absence of that spirit of benevolence which ought to be the active and moving principle in every system of laws. He found that even the advocates of mitigated punishments maintained the doctrine that “vengeance” is “the foundation of punishments,” and that to deter by example is the great object of the law. To him it appeared, that to act from the impulse of anger (which, if it mean any thing, means an exaggerated state of feeling produced by injury,) was to abandon the judgment to the guidance of the passions, and that the attempt to deter by example had led to the commission of greater atrocities than those which the legislator sought to prevent. He thought that it became the state to prevent useless suffering in the guilty as well as in the innocent} and that when
a certain quantity of evil has been produced by the commission of a crime, it is unwise to aggravate it by the additional evil of a useless or excessive punishment. To reform the criminal, while he underwent the punishment awarded, appeared to him the most effectual mode of preventing crime, and he therefore regarded reformation as one of the principal objects of penal jurisprudence. These principles he endeavoured to enforce in a volume published in the spring of the present year, to which he gave the title of “
Observations on Penal Jurisprudence, and the Reformation of Offenders.”*

In the following passage he has stated what he conceived to be the true guiding principle in penal legislation:—“If we could divest ourselves of those resentful feelings which are too apt to take possession of our minds on the contemplation of acts of criminality, we should make one great step towards the discovery of a better system of jurisprudence, and prepare the way to an incalculable improvement in the condition of mankind. The correction of vice would then be no longer an exertion of the violent and hostile passions, but of the kind and benignant affections. By the most salutary change, the very errors and crimes of the profligate would afford to the good an opportunity for the exercise of

* 8vo. London. Cadell and Davies, and J. and A. Arch.

the highest virtues. The question would no longer be, whether stripes and bloodshed can prevail against guilt and ignorance, but whether sympathy, prudence, and compassion have lost their influence on the moral feelings of mankind. If we could impress upon the mind of the delinquent an idea that the efforts we are making are really intended for his welfare, our object would, in a great degree, be accomplished. There is no human being so stupid, or so wicked, as not to concur, to the utmost of his power, in measures evidently calculated to relieve him from misery.”

After some observations “on the motives and end of punishment,” he shortly examines the plea of example, so frequently urged as an excuse for the severity of the penal code:—“The inconsiderate and sanguinary lawgiver takes it for granted, that severe and horrible punishments will deter others from the commission of crimes; but has it never occurred to him, that by exhibiting frequent and revolting spectacles of inhumanity and bloodshed, he has counteracted his own object, and weakened in the public mind that natural reluctance to the shedding of human blood, which is one of the great safeguards of human society? In order to demonstrate to a people that they ought not to be cruel, he sets an example of cruelty; and in order to deter them from putting each other to
death, he puts them to death himself; and that, frequently, by such acts of inhuman atrocity and savage barbarity, as the most ferocious criminal was never known to commit, till the common decency, no less than the common feelings of mankind revolt against the abuse, and it becomes a matter of doubt whether the detestation of the punishment does not exceed the detestation of the crime.”

In his remarks “on punishments of inferior degree,” or secondary punishments, as they have been termed, he has exposed their tendency to deprave rather than to reform those who are subjected to them. “By what degrees the author of a petty theft is brought forwards and matured, and how many of these whippings must be administered to him before he is hardened to robbery and murder, must be left to conjecture only. But if the individual has been ruined by being whipped and discharged, what has the public gained by it? Are there not in town and country many thousands of these wretches, of both sexes and of all ages, daily employed in depredation and in plunder, to the great loss, annoyance, and terror of the industrious part of the community; who are not only stripped of their property, but frequently compelled to become prosecutors at their own expense, and to attend distant courts of justice, without the prospect of any compensation? If, instead of
being whipped and discharged, these culprits had been detained in custody and set to hard labour till they had acquired a habit of industry, and had been compelled to repay to those they had robbed the amount of their losses; if, instead of disseminating through the land every species of wickedness, they had themselves received the instructions of compassionate and patient friends, and been restored to society under circumstances of credit and decency, can there be a doubt that the public would have been benefited by such a change?”

After discussing certain proposed improvements in criminal laws, and displaying the injustice and unreasonableness of applying one and the same punishment to a whole class of offenders, he thus proceeds:—“On this subject, then, one of the most important which can engage the attention of the human faculties, it is highly requisite that a thorough investigation should take place; in the result of which it may, perhaps, appear, that there is no short and expeditious way of extirpating moral evil, and that if we wish to succeed, we must enter on the task with a full conviction of its importance, and a sincere resolution to bend ourselves down to the labour. We must inquire into the character, temper, and moral constitution of the individual, and acquaint ourselves with his natural or acquired talents, his habits, and his
views, in order that we may be enabled to adopt such measures for his improvement as may be best adapted to the case. If he be ignorant, we must instruct him; if he be obstinate and arrogant, we must humiliate him; if he be indolent, we must rouse him; if he be desponding, we must encourage him; and this, it is evident, cannot be accomplished without resorting to different modes of treatment, and the full exercise of those moral and sympathetic endowments which subsist, in a greater or less degree, between all human beings, as incident to our common nature.”

These reflections lead to the consideration of the Penitentiary System, as it has been tried in America, on the continent of Europe, and in England, a subject to which the remainder of the volume is devoted. This system was regarded by Mr. Roscoe as the true means not only of punishing, but of repressing crime. “In adverting,” he says, “to the code of criminal law, which has been so long established in Europe, and comparing it with the proposed system which has for its object the reformation of offenders, we find them in almost every point of view the reverse of each other. The former owes its origin to those vindictive feelings which are incident to a rude state of society; the other is founded on Christian principles, and applies the precepts of our religion to the conduct of
our lives. The one proposes to prevent crimes by the example of severe punishments; the other conceives that the best example is that of a criminal brought by proper discipline to a due sense of his crime. By the operation of the former, great numbers of offenders perish in the strength and thoughtlessness of life; the other endeavours to preserve rather than to destroy; it considers a criminal as an unfortunate fellow creature, led on to guilt through a great variety of causes, but capable, by kindness, patience, and proper discipline, of being reformed and restored to society. The former plan cherishes and inflames amongst mankind the feelings of anger and revenge, and employs the mind upon the most hateful of all subjects—the devising modes of punishing or tormenting another; the other embraces all mankind as brethren, and finds in the idea of recalling a fellow creature from guilt to rectitude the highest gratification. Even when compared with the milder system of criminal law, so eloquently recommended by many enlightened writers, the advantage is greatly in favour of the penitentiary plan. The one supposes that it is possible to apportion punishments to crimes, and that such punishments should be invariably inflicted; the other admits of no punishment but such as is necessary to reform the offender, and is as ready to pardon
on evidence of repentance as to convict on evidence of the crime; applying to practice, on all occasions, the Christian precept, ‘Do unto all men as ye would they should do unto you.’ To extend this comparison further is surely unnecessary. If the latter plan can by any exertion be substituted for the former, is it possible that any one can doubt of its expediency?”

In noticing the eulogy pronounced by Dr. Paley upon the criminal law, as “sweeping into its net every crime which, under any possible circumstances, may merit the punishment of death,” Mr. Roscoe adds;—“the fallacy of this statement has been fully shown by Sir Samuel Romilly, by whose enlightened efforts and indefatigable exertions some of the most cruel and obnoxious of these statutes have been repealed. It is not, however, by the success that has attended his labours that we must estimate what is due from the community to this real patriot and distinguished senator. The reforms effected by him bear, indeed, a small proportion to the enormous mass of sanguinary enactments which disgrace our statute book; but the maxims of legislation which he has laid down, and the sound principles for which he has contended, apply to the whole system; and will, it may confidently be hoped, eventually produce such alterations, as may remove from our judicial code the imputation of cruelty on the one hand,
and prevent the impunity of the criminal on the other.”

While the portion of the tract containing this passage was yet in the press, Mr. Roscoe received the distressing intelligence of the death of the excellent and distinguished person, to whose extraordinary merits he had been anxious to offer his testimony. In a letter to Mr. M’Creery, who was printing the work, he says, “The afflicting loss of Sir S. Romilly, to whose friendly opinion I had looked forward with such pleasure, has rendered it necessary for me to add a note on the part where I had mentioned him, which I hope you will approve as being the view most connected with my work, and avoiding the common-place eulogies on such occasions.” The note ran as follows:—

“May this expectation be accomplished! for since the above was written, the world has been deprived of the illustrious individual to whom it relates, and can now only avail itself of the lessons which he has left for its improvement. May we not, however, venture to hope, from the sincere sympathy and universal grief which this event has occasioned, that the cause he so warmly espoused and the sentiments he so forcibly expressed are deeply felt by the nation at large; and that his loss will, as far as possible, be repaid by an increased determination on their
part to promote the great and beneficent objects which he so faithfully pursued? Such a result of his labours may delight his spirit, and add to his happiness in the regions of the blest.”

The subject of prison discipline is one which has only of late years engaged any degree of attention, and it possesses even yet little interest for the public at large. While in America associations are formed to forward the enquiries into this important subject, and individuals zealously devote themselves to the promotion of the same objects, the English public exhibit an apathy with regard to them by no means creditable either to the good sense or the good feeling of the community.—

“I have scarcely heard a word,” says Mr. Roscoe in a letter to Mr. M’Creery, “from the great world about my late publication, from which I conjecture that it does not exactly hit the public taste, and that the old system of hanging, transporting, and flogging will be continued. I shall, therefore, only say, liberavi conscientiam meam, and leave the good seed to grow up at such time and in such places as Providence may direct.”

Amongst the various writers whose works Mr. Roscoe consulted while investigating the subject of penal jurisprudence was Dr. Parr, to whose remarks on punishments, contained in the notes to his Characters of Fox, he attached the highest
value. Upon the publication of the “
Observations on Penal Jurisprudence,” he forwarded to Dr. Parr a copy of that tract, accompanied by the following letter:—

“With this I send you a book calculated to excite a great diversity of opinion. It begins with an attack upon a very worthy and excellent friend of ours, and it calls in your assistance to knock him down, which you have effectually done. It then proceeds to plead the cause of all the rascals in the nation, and it sets you up as their advocate. It not only objects to any more hanging, flogging, &c., but proposes to get clear of punishments altogether, and even presumes to treat the proportioning of punishments to crime as an Utopian scheme, which never can be carried into effect. After all this, the author turns short upon you, his great support; and presumes to criticise you in a manner that it will require all your good nature to pardon. For all this he has only one apology, viz. that the importance of the subject was such that he could neither suppress nor accommodate his opinion. He can, however, explicitly declare, that in the course of his researches on the subject, he has found no writer who has entered so deeply into it, and with such a true feeling for human nature, as yourself; and on this account you must not be surprised to find your nom de guerre frequently introduced. I am sensible, my dear
Sir, that if I had been so fortunate as to have had the benefit of your observations and advice in drawing up these pages, I should have avoided many errors, the apprehension of which gives me no small uneasiness. But this is now too late; and I submit the work to your candid judgment, with the hope that the kindness and partiality you have shown me on other occasions will not be withheld on the present.”

To Mr. Basil Montagu, from whom he had differed on some points of importance, he also addressed the following letter:—

“I ought long ago to have thanked you for your very kind remembrance of me in sending me your observations respecting the punishment of death, which arrived at a moment when I had turned my attention towards the same subject, with a view to publication. I was, therefore, earnest to learn your sentiments, which I had flattered myself would, in all points, be in perfect unison with my own; but judge how I was surprised to find that we differed on the very threshold,—that you had considered anger and revenge as not only allowable but necessary, whilst I had contended that kindness and benevolence were the true principles of penal law. After stating your own opinion, you have proceeded to sanction it by the authority of several other distinguished writers, some of whom have carried it to much greater extent. This subject,
thus treated from such a quarter, appeared to me so important, that I could not proceed further without paying it the utmost attention, and either admitting its validity or demonstrating its insufficiency; and, as I found the former impossible, I have been obliged to undertake the latter,—with what success, I must leave the public to judge. Having, however, once been obliged to dissent, I have not hesitated to do it fairly and openly; and, in the
little work which I am now about to publish, you will find yourself placed in the front of the battle, and assailed with such arguments as I have been able to bring to bear against you. I will, however, confess that in this opposition, (in which, I trust, nothing unfriendly will be found,) I have it further in view to attract discussion on the subject; in which case I feel confident you will sacrifice any personal feeling, (if it were possible what I have said could give rise to it,) in the hope of doing some substantial good. That the present moment is of the utmost importance we must all perceive, and, to say the truth, I am confident you will be much better pleased with any opposition which may throw light on the subject, than by the greatest honours that mere authorship could confer.”

In prosecuting these inquiries, Mr. Roscoe derived much assistance from documents forwarded to him by his friends in America; and
amongst others, by
Mr. Thomas Eddy, a gentleman highly distinguished by his benevolent exertions in the cause of penal jurisprudence. To him, upon the publication of his tract, Mr. Roscoe addressed the following letter:—

“With this you will, I hope, receive two copies of my promised treatise on Penal Jurisprudence, and the Reformation of Offenders, which I submit, with great diffidence, to your judgment and experience; and should feel still more, if I had not in almost every respect conformed to your views, and availed myself of your excellent writings on the subject, which do the greatest credit both to yourself and your country; on which account you will find I have not only occasionally quoted you, but have given the report of the state prison of New York for 1815 (which contains so many of your excellent remarks) entire.

“From the portion of my tract which relates to this country you will perceive, that we are not insensible to the great importance of the penitentiary system, and that some idea of such a plan has been entertained even from a remote period; but that which has always been wanting has been, to place it on proper ground, and to substitute a system of benevolence and reformation for one of revenge and punishment.

“If this can be fully effected, every thing else will naturally flow from it, as from a parent
stream; and from the united efforts which are making in almost every part of the civilised world, and the free communication of sentiments between those who are earnest in the cause, I trust that such a foundation will be laid for the moral improvement of mankind, as may allow us to indulge the warmest hopes of a speedy and happy result.

“The publications you were so good as to send me were of the highest value, as they show by a series of experiments, not only what ought to be done in establishing a penitentiary system, but what ought to be avoided. On this head, you will see that I have expressed myself with great freedom, and will, perhaps, think I have been more ready to blame than to commend. If, however, I have written without reserve, I have always endeavoured to give reasons for my opinions, and it would give me the greatest pleasure, if any suggestions of mine should be thought worthy the attention of those in your country, who interest themselves in the promotion of these most important and benevolent plans.”

In the course of the year 1822 the attention of Mr. Roscoe was again directed to the subject of prison discipline, by an article in the 72d number of the Edinburgh Review, directed against the reformatory system. This was the origin of his tract entitled, “Additional Observations on Penal Jurisprudence and the Re-
formation of Criminals.”* The principal object of the law is, according to the reviewer, “to prevent the repetition of the offence by the punishment of the offender.” This is stated by Mr. Roscoe to be founded on an erroneous assumption; the principal object being, to prevent the repetition of the offence by such means as will most effectually accomplish that purpose; and he argues, that severe punishments have been found insufficient to this end.

He then proceeds to answer the objection, that a reformatory system must, from its want of severity, encourage the commission of crime.

“If persons could be deterred from crimes by any apprehension of the nature of their punishment, there is no circumstance that could have so great an effect for this purpose as the knowledge, that they would be subjected to a course of discipline, that would not be relaxed till it had effected an entire change in their morals and manners, and in all the dissolute habits and evil propensities of their former life. To a wicked disposition, the thoughts of becoming inoffensive, honest, just, and virtuous, is of all things the most hateful, and would consequently be avoided with more care than any punishment of a mere corporal nature. Nor would such apprehension be wholly unfounded. The punishments inflicted on the body are of such a nature, as obstinacy,

* London: Cadell. 1823.

pride, courage, and resolution can successfully resist, even in their most appalling forms; but the pangs and sufferings of an evil conscience, opened to the scene of its own enormities, abominations, and crimes—the overwhelming sense of self-reproach, contrition, and shame—the daily and nightly tears which must be shed before these stains can be washed out—and the dreadful apprehension that reformation has arrived too late, and that the sinner may be cut off before he has had an opportunity of expiating his offence by a better course of life, are, perhaps, the most acute sufferings incident to our nature. Is it then possible, that an establishment, whose professed object is to give to such feelings their full effect, can justly be represented as a place of improper lenity and indulgence? It is true, there is an essential difference in the result of these different modes of discipline. The one leaves the individual in the same, or a worse state of mind than that in which it found him; the other wakes him to new life, and points out to him the path of temporal and eternal happiness; but to the hardened and practised offender, whose life passes in midnight orgies, daring exploits, and criminal gratifications, the apprehension of the latter kind of discipline is, perhaps, the most formidable of the two.”

The subject of solitary confinement, as imposed in some of the state prisons of America,
had been noticed by
Mr. Roscoe in his former tract, and his attention was again called to this important question by the proceedings of the legislature of Pennsylvania, in 1820. He had also, in consequence of his observations on the penitentiary system in the United States, been led into a correspondence with Dr. James Mease, of Philadelphia, and with William Tudor, Esq., of Boston; and he felt anxious to justify, in his public writings, the part he had thus taken. To this subject, therefore, the remainder of his “Additional Observations” is devoted. Against the system of perfect solitary confinement, by day as well as by night, without employment, he forcibly argues, as being at once cruel, unjust, and useless. When enforced merely for a time, as the means of subduing a hardened and refractory offender, he admits its utility; but, as constituting in itself a scheme of prison discipline, he regards it as one of the most injurious projects ever entertained.

Of the abuses to which such a system must be liable he thus speaks:—

“Independently of the natural and unavoidable consequences of long solitary confinement on the mind and body of the prisoner, which have been so fully detailed by its advocates and promoters, such a mode of punishment is liable to abuses against which it is impossible to guard. If in British prisons, of which publicity is the legal
characteristic, and even in those of the highest reputation, enormities have been discovered in the treatment of prisoners which have called for the interference of the legislature, and occasioned the removal of the keepers, what proceedings may be supposed to take place in a prison from which the public are totally excluded—where the prisoner depends for his daily existence on the diligence of an individual—and where, however severe his treatment may be, he has no one to whom to make his appeal? Humanity shudders at the idea of a weak and perishable being, subject to all the anxieties and infirmities of our nature, enclosed in a narrow cell, beyond the possibility of assistance, under the attacks of sudden disease, or the horrors of phrenzy and despair. Of all modes of torment that human revenge and human cruelty have devised, this seems to be the most perfect; for, in addition to the privation of liberty, and the restriction from every thing that can render life desirable, it extends its terrible influence over the mind and imagination of the prisoner, and removes the irons from the body only that they may enter the more deeply into the soul.”

A copy of this tract was transmitted by its author to Mr. Jeffrey, the editor of the “Edinburgh Review,” accompanied by the following letter:—

“I should not have taken the liberty of in-
truding on you with the
present publication, had it not professed to be an answer to an article in the ‘Edinburgh Review;’ and I was therefore unwilling you should receive it from any one but myself. The high character which that work so deservedly maintains, and the ability and success with which it has asserted all the great principles which are essential to the well-being of society, render it of importance that when it appears to deviate, though but in a slight degree, from this splendid course, it should not be allowed to pass without some attempt to prevent the injurious consequences that may possibly ensue. There can, indeed, be no doubt that an admission of the propriety of resorting again to severe punishments for our convicts; and, still more, an express recommendation of such measures, in a work so distinguished by its general spirit of justice and humanity as the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ is more injurious to what I conceive the real interests of society require, than all the writings and arguments that can be produced by the professed advocates of severe and exemplary punishment. On this account I have been induced to lay before the public what has occurred to me on the subject; and I now submit it to your judgment, in full confidence that, whatever you may think of my efforts, you will acquit me of any motive but that of a desire to perform a painful but indispensable duty.


“I rejoice with you on the proceedings on the opening of the Session, and the glorious speech of Mr. Brougham, the dread of tyrants, and the saviour of Europe.”

His writings on “Prison Discipline” led Mr. Roscoe into a frequent and highly interesting correspondence with many excellent and distinguished persons in America, amongst whom were Mr. Livingstone, the legislator of Louisiana, now secretary of state; Mr. G. C. Verplanck, of New York; Mr. Josiah Quincy, of Boston; Judge Jackson, of Boston, and several others. The approbation of his labours expressed by persons who had enjoyed opportunities of witnessing the effect of the penitentiary system, could not fail to be most gratifying to him, and it gave him especial pleasure to find that those who were practically engaged in the superintendence of the state prisons added their testimony to the correctness of his opinions.

“I have seen,” says Mr. Bradford, the governor of the Massachusetts State Prison, in a letter to Mr. Roscoe, “your ‘Additional Observations,’ and I have read, with no ordinary satisfaction, your other writings upon the treatment of criminals and penal jurisprudence. Whilst superficial reasoners and disappointed theorists are cavilling against this new system of punishment (so worthy of this enlightened age), and endeavouring, with a spirit of Van-
dalism, to go back to the practice of barbarous times, it is cheering to find such able and humane pens as yours engaged in the defence and support of it. The
Edinburgh Review has more than once attacked this new method of treating criminals, and, in very decided terms, denounced the whole plan as faulty and injudicious. I myself had the boldness to reply to this work, and to contend against the doctrine advanced in an article in a former number, and I was pleased to find it better handled in your reply to an article of the same description in a succeeding number.

“I have some pride in believing that you do not essentially differ from me in ideas about this important subject. I perceive that you are not in favour of the present prevailing notion of solitary confinement. I am very sure this will not do, and that, on experiment, the advocates for it, and the community, will be disappointed. And what I fear is, that considering, without reason, and against proof and fair experiment, that the present mode of punishment, viz. confinement to labour, has failed, and placing all their hopes in this last resort of solitary confinement, the whole will be abandoned when this does not succeed.

“I have now been attached to this institution ten years, and have taken some pains to study and learn the effects of this kind of punishment, and its advantages and evils. I am satisfied that
the clamours against it are groundless, and that society derives and enjoys great advantage and security from it.”

Amongst those persons whose opinions Mr. Roscoe was more especially desirous of influencing, there was no one more distinguished than Sir James Mackintosh; to whom, on forwarding to him his second pamphlet, he addressed the following letter:—

“Although it is a very long time indeed since I had the pleasure of your society, and that only for a very short period, yet your track has been too public and too intimately connected with the advancement of civilisation to allow me to lose sight of you; to which I cannot refrain from adding, that there is also an unbroken link in the affectionate respect and attachment which you and I entertain in common for the memory of a most dear and lamented friend; which, if this intrusion stood more in want of apology than I trust you will think it does, would itself be sufficient for that purpose. I suspect, however, that this long introduction is more gratifying to my own feelings than necessary to recommend the subject of my letter, which, I well know, cannot of itself fail to attract as much of your attention as it may be in your power to bestow upon it. Conceiving, then, that in the approaching session of parliament you will again take the lead in bringing for-
wards such measures as seem necessary for the improvement of our criminal law, I have taken the liberty of submitting to your inspection a tract which I have just published, under the title of ‘
Additional Observations on Penal Jurisprudence,’ which are in part intended as an answer to an article in the Edinburgh Review for February last, but which also relate to the punishment of criminals, and the treatment of prisoners both in this country and America, and endeavour to ascertain the true principles by which we should be guided with respect to it. It appears to me, from the facts and publications which have come to my knowledge on both sides the Atlantic, that the philanthropic spirit, which, for some years past, has been employed in improving the condition of the most wretched portions of our fellow-creatures, has greatly declined, or has been put down by an opposite body, who have lately risen up in great force, and with unblushing front have endeavoured to recal the enormities of past ages, and to resort, for the reformation of their own species, to punishments of the most brutal and degrading kind. You will perceive I allude to the fashionable punishments of the tread-wheel in this country, and that of solitary confinement, already established in some of the American States, and rapidly extending itself over the rest.

“In this emergency I have not been able to
remain silent, although I can by no means flatter myself with the hope of producing any impression on the public mind, which seems, in every quarter where I have had an opportunity of judging of it, to be fully made up to the most vindictive, severe, and unprofitable kinds of punishment that human invention can devise. If, however, I could hope to suggest an additional argument on this subject, in opposition to a system which I hold in inexpressible abhorrence, I should not regret the time and thought I have employed upon it, and it is with this view I have intruded on a few of my friends, who, I know, feel an interest in every thing which tends to the extinction of crime and the mitigation of suffering, with a copy of my tract. Among these you stand too eminently conspicuous to escape the trouble I give you, as well by my pamphlet as by this long epistle, which may at least serve to assure you,” &c.

“I ought long before now,” says Sir James, in answer, “to have thanked you for your excellent tract, and for the very kind letter which accompanied it. I have never ceased to recollect with pleasure my meetings with you at the house of our incomparable friend, Dr. Currie. I was prevented so long by indisposition, occupation, and domestic affliction, from replying to your letter, that I at last resolved to answer it in public, which I have done both in the House
of Commons, and at the public meeting of the Prison Discipline Society, on both which occasions I had the pleasure of expressing my esteem and admiration for you, and my conviction that our differences of opinion about punishment are so slight, that they would probably vanish after a very short discussion. Engaged as I am in an endeavour to reduce the number of capital punishments, I cannot have any hope of success in my immediate object, without acquiescing in severe and formidable punishments of a secondary kind. When death is reserved for a very small number of atrocious crimes, I, or some future reformer, will not be precluded from considering what portion of needless severity belongs to secondary punishments.”

In a debate which took place in the House of Commons, on the 21st May, 1823, on a motion for a committee to consider the question of the penal laws, Sir James Mackintosh, in adverting to Mr. Roscoe’s writings on that subject, observed that, “the author had been a little biassed by misdirected humanity in his hostility to severe secondary punishments, and that they seemed the only road by which we could escape from capital punishments.” This circumstance drew from Mr. Roscoe the following letter:—

“Although I did not think I had a right to intrude on you with my acknowledgments for your obliging favour of the 16th June last, yet I
assure you I was not insensible of the honour you had done me in noticing my last publication on the treatment of criminals in terms so favourable to the author. That this was accompanied by an observation, that I had perhaps erred through too much lenity towards offenders, is an imputation which, of all others, I can the most easily bear, as I am fully sensible how much I am yet wanting in those feelings of Christian charity and kindness towards our erring brethren, which I consider as the only solid basis on which we must ever hope for an effectual reform in our criminal law. There is no speculative truth of which I am more fully convinced, than that the real interest of the criminal, and that of society at large, are inseparably united; nor, although I may not live to see it, do I despair that a mode may be adopted by which this speculative truth will be reduced to practice, and the evil and the remedy rendered commensurate to each other.”

It was the earnest desire of Mr. Roscoe to spread abroad principles which he conceived to be so essential to the security of society, and the general improvement of mankind. He, therefore, lost no opportunity of calling the attention of his correspondents, both at home and abroad, to the subject which at this time occupied so much of his thoughts. Amongst others, he transmitted copies of his tracts to Mr. Thorkelin,
a learned and enlightened Dane, who held a high office under the Danish government.

“It has given me infinite pleasure,” says Mr. Thorkelin, in a letter dated the 10th June, 1823, and written by him in English, “to hear that you have lately published your ‘Additional Observations on Penal Jurisprudence.’ Heaven grant that your perseverance shall be able to open the eyes of British legislators—of the whole civilised world, and make the rulers confess that their penal laws are in many instances an abominable prostitution of common sense; and that such laws require a speedy reform, raised on the basis of humanity, and efficient plan of obviating crimes; inflicting adequate punishment on criminals; reducing them by penitence to social duties and industry of useful labour; and, finally, enabling them to obtain their own support with honesty, after they are discharged from their imprisonment.

“Your former treatise on penal laws I have read over twenty times, with increased pleasure. I never found, in my opinion, in any other work of that kind, so many good sayings or more good sense.

“It will give you, I hope, no small joy to hear that his Danish Majesty, the best of kings, has of late made many salutary alterations of the penal laws of Danemark, conform with your ideas. His Majesty is, indeed, no less sanguine and in-
defatigable in his beneficent wishes and pursuits, than the two British worthies, the best and greatest friends of mankind, Messrs.
Roscoe and Wilberforce. The King of Danemark emancipated the negroes in his West India island, in the year 1792; and long before abolished the slave trade in his dominions than the Lord Castlereagh came to Vienna, and bound the sovereigns of Europe to abolish the hateful trade in human beings. Neither the King of Danemark, nor Roscoe, nor Wilberforce, the earlier movers and patrons of the emancipation, were mentioned. Castlereagh solus tulit honores.

“My feebleness makes me throw away my pen; my strength forsakes me; but I trust to recover so far in the course of this summer as to be able more fully to satisfy my duty, and prove to you that I am, and will ever continue, with the most sincere respect,” &c. &c.

Another letter from Mr. Thorkelin, at the close of the year, induced Mr. Roscoe to hope that his writings on penal jurisprudence had fallen into hands in which they might tend to produce good results.

“Your letter, and ‘Additional Observations on the Penal Jurisprudence,’ memorials of your friendship and humanity, are most welcome to me, who well know that those tenders of affection are not the common traffic of compliments and professions, which most people give only that they may receive. I need not tell you
with what delight I received the favour of yours. It is better that your excellent nephew, my friend Mr. Daulby, should tell you how often you are in my thoughts, whenever you are named among us. Indeed, your letter restored for a while my broken health and spirits by continual illness.

“Now to your ‘Additional Observations on Penal Jurisprudence.’ I have read them over and over, and given them to my friend Sir Andrew Sandöe Oersted, who is the first and most enlightened lawyer, and stands high in his Majesty’s confidence. He loves and values you highly for your observations, and the principles you have founded on genuine humanity; and Sir Andrew makes use of all his interest to have your salutary plan adopted and pursued with regard to more humane treatment of criminals, and the ways and means of providing them with opportunities of getting honest support by their labour, when restored to liberty. Besides, Sir Andrew has at present taken in hand the arduous task to state rules of punishment adequate to crimes committed in this country. May I live longer, I will not fail to let you know his proceedings; and, with the first opportunity, the last volume of Edda, now in the press, shall be sent.

“In the mean time, let me have some lines (I beseech you), that will give me good account of your health, which concerns me and
every cordial friend to mankind, because I love and esteem you. May you long continue to be the bright ornament of the world, and blessing to your country, your family and friends: it is the constant prayer of him who has the honour to be, with sincere and profound respect,” &c.

The kindness of Thorkelin to Mr. Daulby, the nephew of Mr. Roscoe, during his residence in Copenhagen, led the latter, in the course of the present year, to present to him copies of his other works, for which Thorkelin made his acknowledgments in the following letter:—

“Praise from thy pen ’tis mine with pride to boast,
He best can give it who deserves the most.”

“Honourable, indeed, is that approbation which is bestowed by those who have themselves been the constant objects of universal applause. Accordingly, I esteem the encomium you confer upon me in your letter of March 4th, received through the hands of your excellent nephew, my intimate friend Mr. Daulby, as a distinction of the highest and most illustrious kind. After saying thus much, I must tell you that I have read over and over the works of you, with which you honoured me, at the same time with infinite delight and great benefit to myself. I should have regretted to leave this world without their perusal. Your divine writings reflect high honour upon our times; they are neither an idle show
of science, nor vain ornaments to libraries. They are, on the contrary, necessary parts to the order of things, which were wanted to the glory of England; you have instructed the public, and strengthened the state. And if you did not join profound humility with profound learning, you would permit me to prefer your writings above all shields fallen from heaven, and other gages of greatness, and eternity of empires. I have had many occasions to observe the power, the dignity, the majesty—and I will add, too, the divine efficacy of history; but I never met with so strong an instance of it as in your ‘
Lives of Lorenzo de’ Medicis’ and ‘Leo the Tenth;’ for every line is calculated to make men wise, and their hearts good. You have showed Virtue in all her beauty, and Vice in all her deformity; and so I join my prayers with yours, in the words of Persius:—
‘Alme pater divû! sævos punire tyrannos,
Haud alia ratione velis, cum dira libido
Moveret ingenium, ferventi tincta veneno,
Virtutem videant, intabescantque relicta.’

“I trust and hope Mr. Daulby will have the goodness to be faithful interpreter to my sincere love and profound respect for you. He is now leaving this country; and, of course, he has lodged a needle in my heart which pricks it with incessant desire to see him return soon again. Our mutual adieu will render my desire still keener. I envy his friends (endowed with every
genuine virtue of old England) the happiness of receiving Mr. Daulby in their bosoms. However, I shall never cease to wish every one of you Heaven’s best blessings, uninterrupted health, and sufficient means of doing good to mankind.

“As to the rest—as you, dear Sir! has begun to love me, I beseech you, remember me constantly; and when you sacrifice to Love and Charity, allow me some little share of the excess and overflowing of your goodness. May I be so happy as to see you here? Be sure Danemark will receive you gratefully, with open arms, as the man of truth and her best defensor against her ferocious enemies, Canning and Co., in the fatal year 1807. In the mean time, be pleased to accept, with your congenial goodness, some trifling specimens of my studies. Your good nature will so much the more readily grant my presumption a pardon, as it confessedly does not deserve it. I have the honour to remain for ever, with faithful attachment, and profound esteem and respect,” &c.

Not satisfied with the endeavours he had made to awaken the public to the importance of the question which had formed the subject of the two tracts already mentioned, Mr. Roscoe, in the year 1825, sent to the press a fresh publication, under the title of “Observations on Penal Jurisprudence, and the Reformation of Offenders. Part III.” This work is a summary of the ar-
guments contained in his former tracts, enforced by additional information, and is dedicated to
Sir James Mackintosh, whom, at the same time, Mr. Roscoe addressed in the following letter:—

“May I beg you will do me the honour to accept a copy of the third part of my ‘Observations on Penal Jurisprudence,’ and to excuse the liberty I have taken in publicly inscribing them to you; a liberty which, independently of those sentiments of sincere and friendly attachment which I have so long entertained, I have been induced to take, in the hope of attracting greater notice to my publication by prefacing it with your name, and at the same time of showing that I have understood the notice with which you honoured me in the House of Commons, in the friendly sense in which it was intended, although I could not, without a dereliction of what I conceived to be an indispensable duty, submit to the opinion it pronounced. It would, however, be a proof not only of a want of feeling, but of a presumption on my part, of which I hope I am incapable, if I could publish this small volume, in which I have been obliged to oppose the opinions of so many eminent persons, whom I most highly respect, without the greatest reluctance and anxiety; but being thoroughly convinced, from the best consideration I can give the subject, that no change for the better can take place either in this or any other depart-
ment of human affairs, upon any other principle than that of general benevolence and good will, directed to promote the happiness of all without sacrificing the interests of any, and being decidedly of opinion that this may be most strongly exemplified in the treatment of criminals, and thence, perhaps, extended to all the relations of public life, I have not shrunk from the task I had undertaken, and would rather be considered as an enthusiast than live with the consciousness of having feared to assert, to the utmost of my power, a principle upon which, in proportion as it is adhered to or departed from, the improvement, the dignity, and the happiness of the human race must ultimately depend.”

To M. Dumont he wrote as follows:—

“Although it is now many years since I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, at the same time with that of our late excellent and ever lamented friend, Sir Samuel Romilly, yet I have never ceased to feel a sincere interest in your welfare, and to participate in the efforts in which you have been continually employed, for improving the condition of society, and regulating its concerns upon better principles than the fallacious and temporising expedients at present so generally resorted to. That the progress made in such an undertaking must be slow, you have been too well aware; but, although all is not accomplished, much has been done; and if we
may judge from the circumstances that daily occur, a wiser policy and a better spirit is rapidly diffusing itself in every department of life, from the connections and relations of states, to the regulation of our lowest, and, till of late years, most neglected internal establishments. Amongst the latter of these may be enumerated our prisons and places of punishment, which have, for some years past, attracted the notice of so many able and excellent men, amongst whom none have distinguished themselves more than yourself, as well by your own labours as by the extension you have given to those of
Mr. Bentham, to whom every friend of improvement must feel the highest obligations, although he may not always assent to the peculiar mode of discipline which he has endeavoured to promote. Amongst the persons last alluded to, if I were to say I consider myself as an humble associate, I should think it an arrogant assumption, being, in fact, nothing more than an interloper; or, to place myself in the most favourable light, a kind of amicus curiæ, who suddenly rises up to express some sentiment which he thinks important to the cause in hand, and which he can no longer restrain. With these feelings I published two tracts or pamphlets, in 1819 and 1822, under the title of ‘Observations on Penal Jurisprudence,’ which have been little read and less noticed; but, as I am aware that nothing can be accom-
plished without perseverance, and as the advocates of a cruel and inefficient system of criminal discipline are indefatigable in their exertions, and have even induced many of the friends of the reformatory system, both in England and America, to abandon their primitive object, and resort to the ancient plan of preventing crimes by the influence of terror alone, by which a retrograde step has unfortunately been made in this great undertaking, I have again returned to the charge, and in a
third part of my Observations, now just published, have endeavoured to show that vindictive and exemplary punishments are wholly irreconcileable with reformatory discipline; and that it is by the influence of the latter alone that we can ever hope to produce any effect in the diminution of crime.

“Of this tract I now take the liberty of offering a copy to your acceptance, in the hope that you will find it, on the whole, consistent with the opinions which you yourself have so much more effectually advocated; and this step I have been induced to take at this moment, from having observed in the Bibliothèque Universelle, for February, 1825, an article on prison discipline, in which large extracts are made from your report in 1822, to the representative council of Geneva, on the establishment of a penitentiary for that canton; in which the objections to the employment of that brutalising engine, the tread-wheel,
and the advantages of productive labour, and a milder discipline, are stated in that spirit of candour and impartiality by which all your writings are so eminently distinguished.

“That your recommendations have contributed to promote the establishment of a more humane and more effectual system of prison discipline in that enlightened community, consoles me, in some degree, for the regret and anxiety I have lately felt on receiving from Mr. Hopkins, of New York, one of the three commissioners appointed by the legislature of that state, to report on the discipline of their prisons, a copy of their report, in which they have recommended an entire alteration, amounting to the abandonment of the reformatory system, and the establishment of a severe and unremitting plan of compulsory labour, under the immediate discipline of the lash, and the dread of solitary confinement; both of which the jailer may inflict at his own pleasure, so that the former shall not exceed thirty-nine lashes, and the latter twelve months, at any one time!

“On receiving this document, I lost no time in transmitting to the commissioners, and several of my friends in New York, the hasty remarks of which I now enclose you a copy; which will, however, I fear, be too late to be of any avail, even if I could flatter myself that they would be likely to produce any effect upon the public de-
liberations of a state, which, as it was one of the first to adopt a reformatory system, and carry it almost to its perfection, is the first to abandon it. But I fear I have already intruded upon you at too great a length. Have the goodness to attribute it not only to the deep interest I take in the subject, but also to the pleasure I feel in addressing myself to one whom I esteem, as well on his own account, as the common friend of several persons of the highest worth and talents, who are now no more, but whose memories will ever be endeared to us both by the most affectionate and most lasting recollections.”

Scarcely had the third part of the “Observations on Penal Jurisprudence” passed through the press, when Mr. Roscoe received from America the Report of the three commissioners appointed by the legislature of New York to visit the state prisons at New York and Auburn, and report such alterations and amendments of the laws for the punishment of crimes as they should deem necessary. This document was read by Mr. Roscoe with deep regret, tending, as he thought it did, to the abandonment of that system of reformatory discipline, the efficacy of which he had so strenuously advocated, and substituting for it a scheme of punishment, the foundation of which was severity and terror. Anxious to oppose, so far as his influence extended, the adoption of this plan, he lost no time in prepar-
ing some observations on the Report, which he printed, under the title of “Remarks on the Report of the Commissioners,” &c. and immediately transmitted to America. Of this circumstance he thus speaks, in a letter to
Dr. Southwood Smith:—

“That I am not very sanguine in my hopes on this head, you will readily believe, when I inform you, that since my tract was printed, and within these few days, I have received from one of the three commissioners at New York, appointed by the legislature to examine and report on the state prisons, a copy of their report of the 15th January last; in which they have, in fact, proposed to the legislature, the total discontinuance of the reformatory system, and the introduction of a plan of severe unmitigated compulsory labour, under the immediate discipline of the whip, and the terror of solitary confinement, both of which the jailer is to be authorised to inflict at his own pleasure. On this document I lost no time in making a few remarks; copies of which I have sent to the commissioners, and to some of my friends in New York, intended rather as a protest against such a measure, than with any hopes of successful opposition, even if the proposed act should not have passed into a law, as will, however, most probably be the case before the arrival of my remarks.”

It was at this period that La Fayette was en-
gaged in making his triumphal progress through the United States, and to him
Mr. Roscoe appealed in the following letter:—

“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.”

To this letter Mr. Roscoe received the following reply:—

“Your so very interesting letter has reached me at a proper point of my rapid and extensive visits through every state in the union. I have been able to confer with several appropriate persons in Philadelphia, and new York: I have been answered that Mr. Hopkins’s personal opinion, although in the name of a committee, was not the opinion of the legislature; and I believe your observations will have a good effect. As to Philadelphia, I had already, on my visit of the last year, expressed my regret that the great expenses of their new penitentiary building had been chiefly calculated on a plan of solitary confinement. This matter has lately become an object of discussion; a copy of your letter, and my own observations, have been requested, and as both opinions are actuated by equally honest and good feelings, as solitary confinement has
never been considered but with a view to reformation, I believe our ideas will have their weight with men who have been discouraged by late failures of success in the reformation plan. It seems to me, two of the inconveniences most complained of might be obviated in making use of the solitary cells to separate the prisoners at night, and multiplying the rooms of common labour, so as to reduce the number in each room to what it was when the population was less dense—an arrangement which would enable the managers to keep distinctions among the men to be reclaimed according to the state of their morals and behaviour.

“It must be said, in justice to my friends of the other opinion, that solitary confinement was never considered by them as has been the case in the prison of Inquisition and the Bastille, but merely as an effective reformation-punishment, and as a preventive against mutual teaching of corruption. The difference is, that we allow it as a punishment of a few days to refractory prisoners, properly inflicted, and they as a more extensive method to make them reflect and reform—a very mistaken notion in my opinion.

“I have had occasion to confer on this matter with friends in New Hampshire, Vermont, and the state of Maine. They are satisfied with their penitentiaries, which are less crowded on
account of their population, and it confirms me in the opinion that several working rooms would answer the purpose.”

The remarks on the Report of the New York commissioners led to a discussion which lasted for several years. Unfortunately the parcel containing the copies of that tract sent to America, lay at the Custom House of New York for upwards of a year; but no sooner did it reach the hands of the commissioners, than one of them, the Honourable Stephen Allen, of New York, immediately published an answer to the tract, under the title of “An Examination of the Remarks on the Report of the Commissioners,” &c. (New York, 1826.) To this, early in the following year, Mr. Roscoe replied in a pamphlet, entitled “A brief Statement of the Causes which have led to the Abandonment of the celebrated System of Penitentiary Discipline in some of the United States of America, in a Letter to the Honourable S. Allen, of New York.” The controversy was continued by Mr. Allen, in his “Observations on Penitentiary Discipline, addressed to William Roscoe, Esq.” (New York, 1827,) and by Roberts Vaux, Esq. of Philadelphia, who, in answer to Mr. Roscoe’s “Brief Statement,” addressed to him a letter in the National Gazette of Philadelphia, vindicating the State of Pennsylvania against the imputation of having adopted a cruel system in their
state prisons.
Dr. Mease, also, with whom Mr. Roscoe had formerly corresponded on the same subject, addressed a letter to him about the same time in the United States Gazette.

Thus called upon from so many quarters, Mr. Roscoe could no longer be silent, and in the course of the year 1827, he addressed to Mr. Vaux, Dr. Mease, and Mr. Allen, a series of letters, which he published in the Liverpool newspapers.* While engaged in preparing for the press his answer to Mr. Allen, he was seized with an alarming illness, from the effects of which he never entirely recovered.

The great question in discussion between Mr. Roscoe and his opponents, was the propriety of substituting solitary confinement for the system of productive labour by day, and separate confinement by night. The discussion of this question was attended with very beneficial effects; and it is, perhaps, not claiming too much for Mr. Roscoe, to attribute, in some degree, the change of opinion which took place upon this subject in the United States to his reasonings, supported as they were by the authority of La Fayette. Even in Pennsylvania, where two large buildings had been erected for the pur-

* Two Letters to Roberts Vaux, Esq. (Liverpool Chronicle, 28th July and 4th August, 1827.) Letter to Dr. Mease (Liverpool Chronicle, October 20. and October 27.). Four Letters to the Hon. S. Allen (Liverpool Chronicle, 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th January, 1828).

pose of solitary confinement, the scheme was abandoned, and the commissioners appointed to report upon the penal code of that state expressed, in their report of the 4th January, 1828, a strong opinion upon its inconveniences and dangers. The report of Mr. Powers, the governor of the prison at Auburn, most satisfactorily confirmed this opinion. “We have thus,” he says, “frankly acknowledged and fully exposed a dangerous error, which we believe has been fallen into by carrying the doctrine of solitary confinement entirely too far. It is deemed proper to add, that a majority of the commissioners, who examined this and the New York prison, and whose report will be hereafter alluded to, were entirely against solitary confinement without labour, on the ground of health, expense, reformation, and unnecessary severity, and they give their reasons at length, and with great force.” From the Report of the Boston Prison Discipline Society for 1828, it may also be gathered, that the sentiments of General la Fayette and Mr. Roscoe met the approbation of that society.

The prospect thus held out of the reformatory system receiving a full and fair trial in the United States afforded the most sincere gratification to the mind of Mr. Roscoe, who expressed his feelings on the subject in a letter to Dr. Hosack, of New York, dated the 13th July, 1830:—


“As the indisposition to which I have referred attacked me at a time when I was engaged in a debate with some of your countrymen on the subject of prison discipline, my medical friends advised me, for a time, not to enter again upon that subject; and it is only of late that I have been able to say that I have had the satisfaction of hearing of the system of discipline recently established in Pennsylvania; where, for many years, I have been led to expect the adoption of the horrid punishment of solitary confinement, without permitting the convicts to labour, with which view the legislature has erected two large and expensive prisons, intended to confine the prisoners in such a manner, that they should be separated not only by night but by day, and should be deprived of the liberty of working lest it should be an alleviation of their sufferings. Against this inhuman and unchristian like system, my humble voice has been raised, amongst those of many others of more importance, for several years past; but it is only a few weeks since that I have learnt, by a communication of authentic documents from Philadelphia, that the legislature have at length given way to the feelings of humanity, and have determined that the convicts shall be allowed to labour in the day, and shall be instructed for that purpose, as well as in whatever else may be requisite for their reformation. The
commissioners whom the legislature had appointed to consider and report to them on this subject had, indeed, recommended to them in their report that the convicts should be permitted to labour in companies, under proper restriction; but with this the legislature would not comply, which I cannot but greatly regret, although, at the same time, I rejoice that so much has been accomplished; considering the object of labour or no labour as being, in fact, the only question in debate; and being of opinion, for various reasons, that the legislature will yet be obliged to resort to the plan recommended by their commissioners.

“By this decision I conceive the great question of prison discipline, as far as regards the United States, is finally settled; every other place, except Philadelphia, having already adopted that plan, thereby making crime to counteract itself, and repair, as far as possible, the evils it has occasioned. In no country has this principle been so well understood, or carried so far as in your own; and the relinquishment of it for the Bastille system of solitary confinement would have grieved me more than I can express; but, thank God! my dread of that is over. I shall now die in peace, convinced that the time will arrive when my own country will follow the example.”