|Chapter Title||Chapter VII. PHILADELPHIA, AND ITS SOLITARY PRISON.|
|Newspaper Title||The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||American Notes for General Circulation|
BY CHARLES DICKENS.
CHAPTER VII. PHILADELPHIA, AND ITS SOLITARY
THE journey from New York to Philadel- phia, is made by railroad, and two ferries ; and usually occupies between five and six hours. It was a fine evening when we were passengers in the train : and watch- ing the bright sunset from a little window near the door by which we sat, my at- tention was attracted to a remarkable appearance issuing from the windows of the gentlemen's car immediately in front of us, which I supposed for some time was occasioned by a number of industrious persons inside, ripping open feather-beds, and giving the feathers to the wind. At length it occurred to me that they were only spitting, which was indeed the case ; though how any number of passengers which it was possible for that car to con- tain, could have maintained such a playful and incessant shower of expectoration, I am still at a loss to understand : notwith- standing the experience in all salivatory phenomena which I afterwards acquired.
I made acquaintance, on this journey, with a mild and modest young quaker, who opened the discourse by informing me, in a grave whisper, that his grand- father was the inventor of cold-drawn castor oil. I mention the circumstance here, thinking it probable that this is the first occasion on which the valuable medi- cine in question was ever used as a conver-
We reached the city late that night. Looking out of my chamber, before going to
bed, I saw on the opposite side of the way, a handsome building of white marble, which had a mournful ghost-like aspect, dreary to behold. I attributed this to the sombre influence of the night, and on rising in the morning, looked out again, expect- ing to see its steps and portico thronged with groups of people passing in and out. The door was still tight shut, however ; the same cold cheerless air prevailed ; and the building looked as if the marble statue of Don Gusman could alone have any busi ness to transact within its gloomy walls. I hastened to enquire its name and pur- pose, and then my surprise vanished. It was the tomb of many fortunes ; the great catacomb of investment ; the memorable United States Bank.
The stoppage of this bank, with all its ruinous consequences, had cast (as I was told on every side) a gloom on Philadel- phia, under the depressing effect of which it yet laboured. It certainly did seem lather dull and out of spirits.
It is a handsome city, but distractingly regular. After walking about it for an hour or two, I felt that I would have given the world for a crooked street. The collar of my coat appeared to stiffen, and the brim of my hat to expand, beneath its quakerly influence. My hair shrunk into a sleek short crop, my hands folded them- selves upon my breast of their own calm accord, and thoughts of taking lodgings in Mark Lane over against the Market Place, and of making a large fortune by speculations in corn, came over me in- voluntarily.
Philadelphia is most bountifully pro- vided with fresh water, which is showered and jerked about, and turned on, and poured off, everywhere. The Waterworks, which are on a height near the city, are no less ornamental than useful, being tastefully laid out as a public garden, and kept in the best and neatest order. The river is dammed at this point, and forced by its own power into certain high tanks, or reservoirs, whence the whole city, to the top stories of the houses, is supplied at a very trifling expense.
There are various public Institutions among them, a most excellent Hospital— a quaker establishment, but not sectarian in the great benefits it confers ; a quiet, quaint old Library, named after Franklin ; a handsome Exchange and Post Office ; and so forth. In connexion with the
quaker Hospital, there is a picture by West, which is exhibited for the benefit of the funds of the institution. The subject is our Saviour healing the sick, and it is, perhaps, as favourable a specimen of the master as can be seen anywhere. Whether this be high or low praise, depends upon
the reader's taste.
In the same room, there is a very characteristic and life-like portrait by Mr. Sally, a distinguished American artist.
My stay in Philadelphia was very short, but what I saw of its society, I greatly liked. Treating of its general characteris- tics, I should be disposed to say that it is more provincial than Boston or New York, and that there is, afloat in the fair city, an assumption of taste and criticism, savouring rather of those genteel discus- sions upon the same themes, in connexion with Shakspeare and the Musical Glasses, of which we read in the Vicar of Wake-
field. Near the city is a most splendid
unfinished marble structure for the Girard
College, founded by a deceased gentleman of that name, and of enormous wealth, which, if completed according to the original de- sign, will be perhaps the richest edifice of modern times. But the bequest is in- volved in legal disputes, and pending them the work has stopped ; so that like many other great undertakings in America, even this is rather going to be done out of those days, than doing now.
In the outskirts stands a great prison, called the Eastern Penitentiary ; conducted on a plan peculiar to the state of Pennsyl- vania. The system here, is rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement. I be- lieve it, in its effects, to be cruel and
In its intention I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for refor- mation ; but I am persuaded that those who devised this system of Prison Disci- pline, and those benevolent gentlemen who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing. I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers ; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more con- vinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the suffer- ers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tam- pering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any tor- ture of the body : and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh ; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear ; therefore, I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay. I hesitated once, debating with myself whether if I had the power of saying " Yes" or
'' No," I would allow it to be tried in cer- tain cases, where the terms of imprison- ment where short ; but now, I solemnly declare, that with no rewards or honours could I walk a happy man beneath the open sky by day or lie me down upon my bed at night, with the consciousness that one human creature, for any length of time, no matter what, lay suffering this unknown punishment in his silent cell, and I the cause, or I consenting to it in the least de-
I was accompanied to this prison by two gentlemen officially connected with its ma- nagement, and passed the day in going from cell to cell, and talking with the in- mates. Every facility was afforded me, that the utmost courtesy could suggest. Nothing was concealed or hidden from my view, and every piece of information that I sought, was openly and frankly given. The perfect order of the building cannot be praised too highly, and of the excellent motives of all who are immediately con- cerned in the administration of the system, there can be no kind of question.
Between the body of the prison and the outer wall, there is a spacious garden. Entering it, by a wicket in the massive gate, we pursued the path before us to its other termination, and passed into a large chamber, from which seven long passages radiate. On either side of each is a long, long row of low cell doors, with a certain number over every one. Above, a gallery of cells like those below, except that they have no narrow yard attached (as those in the ground tier have), and are somewhat smaller. The possession of two of these, is supposed to compensate for the absence
of so much air and exercise as can be had
in the dull strip attached to each of the others, in an hour's time every day ; and therefore every prisoner in this upper story has two cells, adjoining and commu- nicating with each other.
Standing at the central point, and look- ing down these dreary passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails, is awful. Occasionally, there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver's shuttle, or shoemaker's last, but it is stifled by the thick walls and heavy dungeon-door, and only serves ts make the general stillness more pro- found. Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn ; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to his cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired. He never hears of wife or children ; home or friends ; the life or death of any single creature. He sees the prison officers, but with that exception, he never looks upon a human countenance, or hears a human voice. He is a man buried alive ; to be dug out in the slow round of years, and in the mean- time dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair.
His name, and crime, and term of suf- fering, are unknown, even to the officer who delivers him his daily food. There is a number over his cell door, and in a book, of which the governor of the prison has one copy, and the moral instructor another ; this is the index to his history. Beyond these pages the prison has no record of his existence ; and though he live to be in the same cell ten weary years, he has no means of knowing, down to the very last hour, in what part of the build- ing it is situated ; what kind of men there are about him ; whether in the long winter nights there are living people near, or he is in some lonely corner of the great jail, with walls and passages, and iron doors between him and the nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.
Every cell has double doors ; the outer one of sturdy oak, the other of grated iron, wherein there is a trap through which his food is handed. He has a Bible, and a slate and pencil, and, under certain restrictions, has sometimes other books, provided for the purpose, and pen and ink and paper. His razor, plate, can, and basin, hang upon the wall, or shine upon the little shelf. Fresh water is laid on in
every cell, and he can draw it at his plea- sure. During the day, his bedstead turns up against the wall, and leaves more space for him to work in. His loom, or bench, or wheel, is there ; and there he labours, sleeps, and wakes, and counts the seasons
as they change, and grows old.
The first man I saw, was seated at his loom, at work. He had been there six years, and was to remain, I think, three more. He had been convicted as a re- ceiver of stolen goods, but even after this long imprisonment denied his guilt, and said he had been hardly dealt by. It was
his second offence.
He stopped his work when we went in, took off his spectacles, and answered freely to everything that was said to him, but always with a strange kind of pause first, and in a low thoughtful voice. He wore a paper hat of his own making, and was pleased to have it noticed and com- mended. He had very ingeniously manu-
factured a sort of Dutch clock from some
disregarded odds and ends, and his vinegar bottle served for the pendulum. Seeing me interested in this contrivance, he looked up at it with a great deal of pride, and said, that he had been thinking of improving it, and that he hoped the ham- mer and a little piece of broken glass be- side it " would play music before long."
He had extracted some colours from the
yarn with which he worked, and painted a few poor figures on the wall : one, of a female, over the door, he called "the Lady of the Lake."
He smiled as I looked at these con- trivances to wile away the time ; but when I looked from them to him, I saw that his lip trembled, and could have counted the beating of his heart. I forget how it came about, but some allusion was made to his having a wife. He shook his head at the word, turned aside, and covered his
face with his hands.
" But you are resigned now ! " said one of the gentlemen after a short pause, during which he had resumed his former manner. He answered with a sigh, that seemed quite reckless in its hopelessness, " Oh yes, oh yes ! I am resigned to it." "And are a better man, you think ?" " Well, I hope so ; I am sure I hope I may be," "And time goes pretty quickly ? " " Time is very long, gentle- men, within these four walls ! "
He gazed about him—Heaven only knows how wearily !—as he said these words ; and in the act of doing so fell into a strange stare, as if he had forgotten something. A moment afterwards he sighed heavily, put on his spectacles, and went about his work again.
In another cell, there was a German, sentenced to five years' imprisonment for larceny, two of which had just expired. With colours procured in the same manner, he had painted every inch of the walls and ceiling quite beaut¡fully. He had laid out the few feet of ground, behind, with ex- quisite neatness, and had made a little bed in the centre, that looked by the bye like
a grave. The taste and ingenuity he had displayed in everything were most extra-
ordinary ; and yet a more dejected, heart-
broken, wretched creature, it would be difficult to imagine. I never saw such a picture of forlorn affliction and distress of mind. My heart bled for him ; and when the tears ran down his cheek, and he took one of his visitors aside, to ask, with his trembling hands nervously clutching at his coat to detain him, whether there was no hope of his dismal sentence being com- muted, the spectacle was really too painful to witness. I never saw or heard of any kind of misery that impressed me more
than the wretchedness of this man.
In a third cell was a tall strong black, a burglar, working at his proper trade of making screws, and the like. His time was nearly out. He was not only a very dexterous thief, but was notorious for his boldness and hardihood, and for the num- ber of his previous convictions. He en- tertained us with a long account of his achievements, which he narrated with such infinite relish, that he actually seemed to lick his lips as he told us racy anec- dotes of stolen plate, and of old ladies whom he had watched as they sat at win- dows in silver spectacles (he had plainly had an eye to their metal even from the other side of the street), and had after- wards robbed. This fellow, upon the slightest encouragement, would have min- gled with his professional recollections the most detestable cant ; but I am very much mistaken if he could have surpassed the unmitigated hypocrisy with which he declared that he blessed the day on which he came into that prison, and that he would never commit another robbery as long as he lived.
There was one man who was allowed, as an indulgence, to keep rabbits. His room baring rather a close smell in con- sequence, they called to him at the door to come out into the passage. He com- plied, of course, and stood shaking his haggard face in the unwonted sunlight of the great window, looking as wan and un- earthly as if he had been summoned from the grave. He had a white rabbit in his breast ; and when the little creature, getting down upon the ground, stole back into the cell, and he, being dismissed, crept timidly after it, I thought it would have been very hard to say in what respect the man was the nobler animal of the
There was an English thief, who had been there but a few days out of seven years ; a villanous low-browed, thin-lipped fellow, with a white face ; who had as yet no relish for visitors, and who, but for the additional penalty, would have gladly stabbed me with his shoemaker's knife. There was another German who had entered the jail but yesterday, and who started from his bed when we looked in, and pleaded, in his broken English, very hard for work. There was a poet, who after doing two days' work in every four and-twenty hours, one for himself and one for the prison, wrote verses about ships (he was by trade a mariner), and "the maddening wine cup," and his friends at home. There were very many of them. Some reddened at the sight of visitors, and some turned pale. Some two or three had prisoner nurses with them, for they were very sick ; and one, a fat old negro whose leg had been taken off within the jail, had for his attendant a classical scholar and an accomplished surgeon, him- self a prisoner likewise. Sitting upon the stairs, engaged in some slight work, was a pretty coloured boy. " Is there no refuge for young criminals in Philadelphia, then ?" said I. "Yes, but only for white children." Noble aristocracy in crime.
There was a sailor who had been there upwards of eleven years, and who in a
few months time would be free. Eleven years of solitary confinement !
" I am very glad to hear your time is nearly out. " " What does he say ? Nothing. Why does he stare at his hands, and pick the flesh upon his fingers, and raise his eyes for an instant, every now and then, to those bare walls which have seen his head turn grey ? It is a way he has sometimes.
Does he never look men in the face, and does he always pluck at those hands of his, as though he were bent on parting skin and bone ? It is his humour : nothing
It is his humour too, to say that he does not look forward to going out ; that he is not glad the time is drawing near ; that he did look forward to it once, but that was very long ago ; that he has lost all care for everything. It is his humour to be a helpless, crushed, and broken man. And, Heaven be his witness that he has his humour thoroughly gratified !
There were three young women in ad- joining cells, all convicted at the same time of a conspiracy to rob their prosecu- tor. In the silence and solitude of their lives, they had grown to be quite beautiful. Their looks were very sad, and might have moved the sternest visitors to tears, but not to that kind of sorrow which the con- templation of the men, awakens. One was a young girl, not twenty, as I recol- lect ; whose snow-white room was hung with the work of some former prisoner, and upon whose downcast face the sun in all its splendour shone down through the high chink in the wall, where one narrow strip of bright blue sky was visible. She was very penitent and quiet ; had come to be resigned, she said (and I believe her ;) and had a mind at peace. " In a word, you are happy here ?" said one of my com- panions. She struggled—she did struggle very hard—to answer, yes : but raising her eyes, and meeting that glimpse of free- dom overhead, she burst into tears, and said, " She tried to be ; she uttered no complaint ; but it was natural that she should sometimes long to go out of that one cell : she could not help that," she sobbed, poor thing !
I went from cell to cell that day ; and every face I saw, or word I heard, or in- cident I noted, is present to my mind in all its painfulness. But let me pass them by, for one, more pleasant, glance of a prison on the same plan which I after-
wards saw at Pittsburgh.
When I had gone over that, in the same manner, I asked the Governor if he had any person in his charge who was shortly going out. He had one, he said, whose time was up next day ; but he had only been a prisoner two years.
Two years ! I looked back through two years in my own life—out of jail, prosperous, happy, surrounded by blessings, comforts, and good fortune—and thought how wide a a gap it was, and how long those two years passed in solitary captivity would have been. I have the face of this man, who was going to be released next day, before me now. It is almost memorable in its happiness, than the other faces in their misery. How easy and how natural it was for him to say that the system was a good one ; and that the time went " pretty quick—con- sidering ;" and that when a man once felt
he had offended the law, and must satisfy it, " he got along somehow :" and so forth !
" What did he call you back to say to you, in that strange flutter ?" I asked of my conductor, when he had locked the door and joined me in the passage.
" Oh ! That he was afraid the soles of
his boots were not fit for walking, as they were a good deal worn when he came in ; and that he would thank me very much to have them mended ready ?
Those boots had been taken off his feet, and put away with the rest of his clothes, two years before !
I took that opportunity of inquiring
how they conducted themselves imme-
diately before going out ; adding that I pre-
sumed they trembled very much.
" Well, it not so much a trembling," was the answer—" though they do quiver —as a complete derangement of the nervous system. They can't sign their names to the book, sometimes can't even hold the pen ; look about 'em without ap- pearing to know why, or where they are ; and sometimes get up and sit down again, twenty times in a minute. This is when they're in the office, where they are taken with the hood on, as they were brought in. When they get outside the gate they stop, and look first one way and then the other, not knowing which to take. Sometimes they stagger as if they were drunk, and sometimes are forced to lean against the fence, they're so bad ;— but they clear off in course of time."
As I walked among these solitary cells,
and looked at the faces of the men within them, I tried to picture to myself the thoughts and feelings natural to their con- dition. I imagined the hood just taken off, and the scene of their captivity dis- closed to them in all its dismal monotony.
At first, the man is stunned. His con- finement is a hideous vision, and his old life a reality. He throws himself upon his bed, and lies there abandoned to despair. By degrees the insupportable solitude and barrenness of the place rouses him from this stupor ; and when the trap in his grated door is opened, he humbly begs and prays for work. " Give me some work to do, or I shall go raving
mad ! "
He has it ; and by fits and starts ap- plies himself to labour ; but every now and then there comes upon him a burning
sense of the years that must be wasted in that stone coffin, and an agony so piercing
in the recollection of those who are hidden from his view and knowledge, that he starts from his seat, and striding up and down the narrow room with both hands
clasped on his unlifted head, hears spirits tempting him to beat his brains out on the
Again he falls upon his bed, and lies there, moaning. Suddenly he starts up, wondering whether any other man is near ;
whether there is another cell like that on either side of him : and listens keenly.
There is no sound, but other prisoners may be neat for all that. He remembers to have heard once, when he little thought of coming here himself, that the cells were so constructed that the prisoners could not hear each other, though the officers could hear them. Where is the nearest man—
upon the right, 0r on the left ? or is there
one in both directions ? Where is he sit-
ting now—with his face to the light ? or is he walking to and fro ? How is he dressed ? Has he been here long ?' Is he much worn away ? Is he very white and spec- tre-like ? Does he think of his neighbour
Scarcely venturing to breathe, and lis- tening while he thinks, he conjures up a figure with its back towards him, and ima- gines it moving about in this next cell. He has no idea of the face, but he is certain of the dark form of a stooping man. In the cell upon the other side, he puts another figure, whose face is hidden from him also. Day after day, and often when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he thinks of these two men until he is almost distracted
He never changes them. There they are always as he first imagined them—an old man on the right ; a younger man upon the left—whose hidden features torture him
to death, and have a mystery that makes
The weary days pass on with solemn
pace, like mourners at a funeral ; and slowly he begins to feel that the white walls of the cell have something dreadful in them:
that there colour is terrible : that their smooth surface chills his blood : that there is one hateful corner which torments him.
Every morning when he wakes, he hides his face beneath the coverlet, and shudders to see the ghastly ceiling looking down upon him. The blessed light of day itself peeps in, an ugly phantom face, through the unchangeable crevice which is his pri-
By slow but sure degrees, the terrors of that hateful corner swell until they be- set him at all times ; invade his rest, make his dreams hideous, and his nights dreadful. At first, he took a strange dislike to it ; feeling as though it gave birth in his brain to something of corres- ponding shape, which ought not to be there, and racked his head with pains. Then he began to fear it, then to dream of it, and of men whispering its name and pointing to it. Then he could not bear to look at it, nor yet to turn his back upon it. Now, it is every night the lurking place of a ghost : a shadow a silent some- thing, horrible to see, but whether bird, or beast, 0r muffled human shape, he can-
When he is in his cell by day, he fears the little yard, without. When he is in the yard, he dreads to re-enter the cell. When night comes, there stands the phan- tom in the corner. If he have the courage to stand in its place, and drive it out (he had once : being desperate), it broods upon his bed. In the twilight, and always at the same hour, a voice calls to him by name, as the darkness thickens, his loom begins to live ; and even that, his comfort, is a hideous figure, watching him till day-
Again, by slow degrees, these horrible fancies depart from him one by one : re- turning sometimes, unexpectedly, but at longer intervals, and in less alarming shapes. He has talked upon religious matters with the gentleman who visits him, and has read his Bible, and his written a prayer upon his slate, and hung it up, as a kind of protection, and an assu-
ranee of Heavenly companionship. He dreams now, sometimes, of his children 0r his wife, but is sure they are dead or have deserted him. He is easily moved to ters ; is gentle, submissive, and bro- ken-spirited. Occasionally, the old agony comes back a very little thing revives it ; even a familiar sound, 0r the scent of summer flowers in the air ; but it does not last long : now for the world without, has come to be the vision, and this soli- tary life, the sad reality.
If his term of imprisonment be short— I mean comparatively, for short it cannot be—the last half year is almost worse than all ; for then he thinks the prison will take fire and he be burnt in the ruins, or that he is doomed to die within the walls, or that he will be detained on some false charge and sentenced for another term :
or that something, no matter what, must happen to prevent his going at large. And this is natural, and impossible to be rea- soned against, because, after his long se- paration from human life, and his great
suffering, any event will appear to him
more probable in the contemplation, than the being restored to liberty and his fellow-
If his period of confinement have been very long, the prospect of release be- wilders and confuses him. His broken heart may flutter for a moment, when he thinks of the world outside, and what it thinks have been to him in all those lonely years, but that is all. The cell-door has been closed too long on all its hopes and cares. Better to have hanged him in the beginning than bring him to this pass, and send him forth to mingle with his kind, who are his kind no more.
On the haggard face of every man among these prisoners, the same expression sat. I know not what to liken it to. It had something of that strained attention
which we see upon the faces of the blind and deaf, mingled with a kind of horror, as though they had all been secretly terri- fied. In every little chamber that I en- tered, and at every grate through which I looked, I seemed to see the appalling countenance. It lives in my memory, with the fascination of a remarkable picture. Parade before my eyes, a hundred men, with one among them newly released from this solitary suffering, and I would point
The faces of the women, as I hive said, it humanizes and refines. Whether this be, because of their better nature, which be, elicited in solitude, or because of their being gentler creatures, of greater patience and longer suffering, I do not know ; but so it is. That the punishment is never- theless, to my thinking, fully as cruel and as wrong in then case, as in that of the men, I need scarcely add.
My firm conviction is, that independent of the mental anguish it occasions—an anguish so acute and so tremendous, that all imagination of it must fall far short of the reality—it wears the mind into a mor- bid state, which renders it unfit for the rough contact and busy action of the world. It is my fixed opinion that those who have undergone this punishment, MUST pass into society again morally un- healthy and diseased. There are many instances on record, of men who have chosen, or have been condemned, to lives of perfect solitude ; but I scarcely re- member one, even among sages of strong and vigorous intellect, where its effect has not become apparent, in some dis- ordered train of thought, or some gloomy hallucination. What monstrous phan- toms, bred of despondency and doubt, and born and reared in solitude, have stalked upon the earth, making creation ugly, and darkening the face of heaven !
Suicides are rare among these prisoners ; are almost, indeed, unknown. But no argument in favour of the system can reasonably be deduced from this circum- stance, although it is very often urged.
All men who have made diseases of the
mind their study, know perfectly well that such extreme depression and despair as will change the whole character, and beat down all its powers of elasticity and self-resistance, may be at work within a man, and yet stop short of self-destruction.
This is a common case.
That it makes the senses dull, and by degrees impairs the bodily faculties, I am quite sure. I remarked to those who were with me in this very establishment at Philadelphia, that the criminals who had been there long, were deaf. They, who were in the habit of seeing these men con- stantly, were perfectly amazed at the idea, which they regarded as groundless and fancifu. And yet the very first prisoner to whom they appealed—one of then own selection—confirmed my impression (which was unknown to him) instantly, and said, with a genuine air it was impossible to doubt, that he couldn't think how it hap- pened, but he was growing very dull of hearing.
That it is a singularly unequal punishment, and affects the worst man least, there is no doubt. In its superior efficiency as a means of reformation, compiled with that other code of regulations which allows the prisoners to work in company without communicating together, I have not the smallest faith. All the instances of refor- mation that were mentioned to me, were of a kind that might have been—and I have no doubt whatever, in my own mind, would have been—equally well brought about by the Silent System With regard to such men as the negro burglar and the English thief, even the most enthusiastic have scarcely any hope of their conversion.
It seems to me that the objection, that nothing wholesome or good has ever had its growth in such unnatural solitude, and that even a dog or any of the more intelli- gent among the beasts, would pine, and mope, and rust away, beneath its influ- ence, would be in itself a sufficient ar- gument against this system. But when we recollect, in addition, how very cruel and severe it is, and that a solitary life is always liable to peculiar and distinct ob- jections of a most deplorable nature, which have arisen here, and call to mind, more- over, that the choice is not between this system and a bad or ill-considered one,
but between it and another which has worked well, and is, in its whole design and practice, excellent ; there is surely
more than sufficient reason for abandon-
íng a mode of punishment attended by so little hope or promise, and fraught, beyond dispute, with such a host of evils.
As a relief to its contemplation, I will close this chapter with a curious story, arising out of the same theme, which was related to me, on the occasion of this visit, by some of the gentlemen concerned.
At one of the periodical meetings of the inspectors of this prison, a working man of Philadelphia presented himself before the Board, and earnestly requested to be placed in solitary confinement. On being asked what motive could possibly prompt him to make this strange demand,
he answered that he had an irresistible
propensity to get drunk ; that he was constantly indulgíng it, to his great misery and ruin ; that he had no power of re- sistance ; that he wished to be put be- yond the reach of temptation ; and that he could think of no better way than this. It was pointed out to him, in reply, that the prison was for criminals who had been tried and sentenced by the law, and could not be made available for any such fanciful purposes ; he was exhorted to abstain from intoxicating drinks, as he surely might if he would ; and received other very good advice, with which he re- tired, exceedingly dissatisfied with the re- sult of his application.
He came again, and again, and again, and was so very earnest and importunate, that at last they took counsel together, and said, " He will certainly qualify him- self for admission if we reject him any more. Let us shut him up. He will soon be glad to go away, and then we shall get rid of him." So they made him sign a statement which would prevent his ever sustaining an action for false imprisonment, to the effect that his incarceration was
voluntary and of his own seeking ; they requested him to take notice that the officer in attendance had orders to release
him at any hour of the day or night, when
he might knock upon his door for that purpose ; but desired him to understand, that once going out, he would not be ad-
mitted any more. These conditions agreed upon, and he still remaining in the same mind, he was conducted to the prison, and shut up in one of the cells.
In this cell, the man who had not the firmness to leave a glass of liquor standing untasted on a table before him—in this cell, in solitary confinement, and working every day at his trade of shoemaking, this man remained nearly two years. His health beginning to fail at the expiration of that time, the surgeon recommended that he should work occasionally in the garden ; and as he liked the notion very much, he went about this new occupation with great cheerfulness.
He was digging here, one summer day, very industriously, when the wicket in the outer gate chanced to be left open : show- ing, beyond, the well remembered dusty road and sun-burnt fields. The way was as free to him as to any man living, but he no sooner raised his head and caught sight of it, all shining in the light, than, with the involuntary instinct of a prisoner, he cast away his spade, scampered off as fast as his legs could carry him, and never
once looked back.