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desire to do it, further than they share that general wish of mine, that all mankind should go on improving. Not to have been able to avoid their company, would bave been to me a terrible punishment. But the real motive for keeping me apart from them with such scrupulous care has been, not a fear that I should corrupt them, but a fear that I should expose some of those abuses and oppressions which are inseparable from such a place, under such a mode of management. That bas been the first motive. Here first
bave a Gaoler, that is so completely a compound of bad passions, as to be incapable of setting a good example, or of using mild persuasion to a prisoner-a man absolutely hated and despised by prisoners who are confined long enough to know him. Never did I see a prisoner look towards bim with a feeling of respect or a sense of kindness and good treatment: nor did I ever hear any person speak well of bin. Then you have a set of turnkeys, who have merely labourer's wages, and who will, as a matter of course, intrigue or do auy thing with the prisoners to earn a shilling or to share a pint of beer. Next there is a set of Visiting Justices, who are to be mollified in their penal orders by nothing but hypocrisy and the basest prostration of mind. These are the things to corrupt the inhabitants of a Gaol. most sincere belief, that no man or woman ever went out of this Gaol improved. Hypocrites may have been made, as it is the general system of our laws and goverument to make; but that is only an accumulation of vice, rendered more dangerous by being disguised.
I have no very bigh opinion of mankind as they are. ANI the imaginations about immortal souls are to me more idle than the passing wind. If any other animat deserves the name of beast, in a ciegrading sense, man is but a beast; that is to say, he lives and dies upon the same principle, and to the sanie purpose as every other beast does. This is as clear to my mind, as the birth, the life, and the death of every animal and vegetable; I may add, of every identical existence, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, or a planet, which is a compound of the three with water, that produces them all. And pray tell me, what there is in man superior to any other animal! Reason? What usé does he make of it, taking the aggregate of the species, to his advantage? To build churches, gaols, and lunatic asylums? To build hovels, and towns, and cities, that are so badly constructed, and so numerously filled, as to make him pass his days in a poisoned air, and in an almost incessant state
It is my
of disease and pain? To pursue a system of slavery known to no other beast but those whom he can controul, and whom be makes his companions in slavery and servility? To be cheated by his more cunning and vicious fellows, the priests for instance, so as no other animal or beast is cheated : to be worked by them, as no other animal is worked, not for his own, but for their profit? Positively the priests, and they who cheat the labouring part of mankind, alone deserve the epithet of rational. They alone are superior to other animals in condition; but to the disgrace of our species, with their immortal souls, that superiority consists iu nothing but knavery. I hope it will be better by and bye, as such men as myself go on to “ corrupt" such men as your prisoners.
Under these and similar impressions, I view such men as constitute the aggregate of your prisoners, in no other light than human cattle, the more vicious part of cattle, who break down fences and graze in the better pasture of another master, impressed thereto by having been corrupted, or by not having been educated so as to be made rational beings, by having been left in the natural state of man, like every other animal, ignorant of the nature of society, and of individual property. Such are the men whom you fear I shall corrupt. You either had not considered what you were talking about, or you desire to keep such prisoners as mere cattle. Go where you will among the men who read my publications, you will find them superior in knowledge and manners, to such of their neighbours as do not read them. You will find this, even though they are persecuted by their more ignorant neighbours for reading them. What, I fear, you desire, is, to keep the prisoners ignorant. Such I know to be the disposition of the Visiting Magistrates. At the request of a crown debtor, and under the knowledge of the officers of the Gaol, I was once in the habit of throwing my newspapers into the debtor's ward. The matter coming to the knowledge of the Visiting Magistrates, they came to my room, and Dr. England being the foreman, desired that I would not do it, as they did not want their prisoners to be politicians! That is the motive which makes them fear that í sball corrupt the prisoners: that is the sort of corruption they fear. It is knowledge among the labouring people which they dread; and well they may; for I will engage to say, that four out of the five Visiting Magistrates would never bave had any chance of being chosen Magistrates.
No. 6, Vol. X.
With regard to the classification of prisoners, it may
be useful, so long as they are studiously kept ignorant, to prevent the greater fermentation of vice among them; but under a better discipline, under a discipline that should communicate the greatest possible amount of knowledge, it would be rather mischievous than otherwise. I repeat, that through the prisoners working together, through the employment of certain prisoners in all parts of the gaol affording a medium for communication to all, there is as common a knowledge of what passes in the whole gaol, as there is to the inhabitants of Dorchester of what passes in that town: and I'll warrant it, that like all other small towns, there is there po deficiency of neighbourly gossip, of table talk, baker's shop, barber's shop, chandler's shop, pot house, and idle coroer talk: the gaol concentrates the whole. Under the shape of intrigue, there is scarcely a forbidden thing, but I might have uniformly done in this gaol. But I hate intrigue, and will do nothing in fear of man or woman-will do pothing secretly that I durst not do openly. This has been my rule of conduct in this gaol: and this would have been my rule of conduct, if I had been as free as the Gaoler or Chaplain within the walls of the gaol. This rule of conduct, though silently exhibited, has spoken eloqueutly to all who have witnessed it, and has been a matter of surprise, as well as a good example, to some of your gaol Christians.
Many a trembling Cbristian has entered my shop in London, and whispered that he should like a copy of Paine's Age of Reason. I uniformly encouraged them to speak out and fear not, as there was nothing there done in secret. By this openness, and by this alone, have I triumphed over you Christians. Had I proceeded under any system of intrigue, I should have been overwhelmed by the superior intrigue of Christians, the most intriguing of all mankind, and my conduct would have been denounced as dark and fearing the light. On the contrary, in every action, I have courted publicity, and by so doing I have broken the charm of Christianity in this country.
There is another and a particular system of classification pow adopted in all county gaols, a complete separation between male and female prisoners, so that they shall not, as far as possible, see one of the other sex. This is ridiculous, and productive of any thing but virtue. I do not advocate indiscriminate commerce between them: I abominate prostitution as it is carried op in this country: but, as far as a well-regulated intercourse can be encouraged between the
sexes, I think it wholesome to both, and should be encouraged as an incentive to virtue as well as to health. Therefore, under a long confinement, I would encourage the young and most deserving couples to marry, as they are encouraged to marry in New Holland and other couvict stations. Married people, man and wife both committed to yaol, should be allowed to live together as a separate class of prisoners. There is no vice in sexual intercourse, so as it proceeds under some well-regulated custom. It is in fact a virtue, a well understood stimulant to health, and wherever unnatural obstacles are imposed, civilization of morals are by no means increased or improved. There is nothing in sexual intercourse, cousidered as a separate passion, that has any relation to morals, more than in eating or in drinking together. It is only where the laws of society are broken on this head, that the question of morals interferes; and some of these laws are more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Some of thiem constitute so ridiculous a hedging of the field of nature, that whéri a couple of the more ungovernable kind of passions break over this hedge, they are subsequently rendered unbappý by being made the jest or table-talk of a neighbourhood. That hideous institution, the Christian church, bas issued some abominable edicts on this head;
and the joke was alike common and true, and is to this day in Catholic countries, that, if a priest was not al. lowed to have a wife, he had influence enough over wives, so as to make every wife have a priest. The late Spanish exiles will and do acknwledge, that there is scarcely a woman in Spain but is compelled to prostitute herself to some priest, whether she be married or single. This is a dreadful state of society, and of itself constitutés a moral justification for the overthrow of Christianity and every kind of priestcraft. It is another proof that RELIGION is vice, which is the burtheñ of this letter.
There is a éustom in Portland, in this county, which corresponds with the betrothings of the Jews when in Judea, and prevails in many parts of the world, more particularly among the Dutch inhabitants of the United States of America', that, as soon as a young couple exbibit a real attachment to each other, they proceed to sexual intercourse; and the first sign of pregnancy, is the signal for marriage. If there be no pregnancy, the marriage is either deferred or wholly put' off. At least, this is what is called the Portland custom, and this was the betrothing of the Jews, which : scouts the idea of virginity in the betrothed Mary. In the
sparking and bundling" of the Dutch Americans, pregnancy is not waited for to consummate the marriage by the religious rite and ceremony. Under this custom, at Portland, treachery is as uncommon, as the separation of married couples after marriage in other parts of the country, and much less so. It is also very rare after the “bundling” in America. These matters have their foundations of right and wrong wholly in custom, and not in any settled principle of morality. The American process of courtship, at least among the Dutch inhabitants, which has also extended itself to others, is thus stated, by more than one traveller. On admitting a young man to court a daughter, the first encouragement on the part of the parents is, to leave the young couple sitting up at night. There is some particular term for this step, which I have forgotten. On the young women gaining confidence, she invites the young man to “ spark or bundle,” I will not be positive, that is, the second step meaus, that they lay and sleep on the same bed, with all or nearly all their usual clothes. The third step, after the young woman has confidence enough in the young man, is, to admit him to a free share of her bed, as after marriage in this country Custom sets aside all idea of vice or immorality in this proceeding, and such young women rank among and make the most virtuous wives.
I cite these cases, to shew, that there are certain grounds on which an intercourse between the sexes might be, and ought to be encouraged, even in a Gaol. I would not make it a brothel; such a thought is the most distant from my views; but as far as intercourse can be encouraged within the Gaol, upon the principle deemed legal without, I would have it encouraged. . And in this recommendation, I am most 'serious; for I can see, that, after a good schooling, and a fair choice in marriage, young couples, who had previously led a vicious life, would go out and lead a virtuous
and the fact of both having been the inmates of a Gaol, can be no stain upon the one in the eyes of the other. Furtber, marriage in a Gaol might be only allowed as the result of excellent behaviour, to be determined by the superior officer or officers. This would be a high stimulant to regularity of conduct in many cases. But I would have it understood, that, under the present system of Gaol discipline, the recommendation will not answer. There is too much absolute power in the officers of the Gaol, to proceed to such a regulation safely, and too much of incorrected vice in the prison. ers. I combine it with the other recommendations to change