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have called forth our present remarks, without expressing our chagrin and mortification, that writers, belonging to a reputable profession, and wearing some external badges of distinction in that profession, should continue to give to the public, productions, exhibiting so little evidence of theological learning, correct taste, or habits of clear and forcible reasoning. Their appearance certainly is not creditable to the theological literature of our country. Their publication, from time to time, leads us occasionally to doubt whether the progress in just principles of biblical criticism and interpretation, of which some of our theological seminaries, and the writings of a few individuals among us, give abundant proof, is shared by any large portion of our religious teachers, or whether the public is yet to any very wide extent benefited by such progress, whatever it be. It would be difficult to point out a passage in the writings which have been just now under consideration, in which the author has been indebted for a single excellence, to the efforts of the human mind in theology, criticism, or historical research, for the last hundred years. In regard to solidity and justness of thought, learning, arrangement, style, and general fairness and candor, his productions are far inferior to those of Pearson and Barrow on the Creed, Paley on the Evidences, and others of a similar character which might be named. When the Bishop, in reference to the remark often made, that the best Trinitarian critics now generally admit that the occurrence, in the Old Testament, of one of the names of the Deity in the plural form, proves nothing as to a plurality of persons in the Divinity, says that it is a questionable whether this point is generally conceded," and "more than questionable whether it ever ought to be," he furnishes, we think, a key to the course he is determined to pursue, that is, to surrender not the least particle of the traditionary opinions which make in his favor, though they should be proved, with the clearness of mathematical demonstration, to be utterly repugnant to reason and fact. On no other principle can we explain his adherence to the old fabulous accounts of the origin of the Apostles' and the Athanasian Creeds, and the numerous other vestiges, constantly recurring in his writings, of antiquated hypotheses, and wornout and exploded absurdities.
Art. VI. - On the Penitentiary System in the United States,
and its Application in France; with an Appendix on Penal Colonies, and also Statistical Notes. By G. DE BEAUMONT and A. DE TOCQUEVILLE, Counsellors in the Royal Court of Paris, and Members of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Translated from the French, with an Introduction, Notes, and Additions. By Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. 1833. 8vo.
It is consoling, when one has been contemplating the mischiefs, the follies, the guilt, and the suffering, which abound in the world, to turn the thoughts to those symptoms of improvement in the state of society, which bere and there may be discerned. It is a consolation which is necessary for the encouragement of such as are willing to contribute their share of labor in advancing the best interests of their fellow men; for, if it be otherwise, if, in spite of effort and the use of reasonable means, there is no improvement; if, as we are sometimes told, the world grows worse and worse, more and more accomplished in the arts of corruption, and less disposed to what is really and permanently good, why should any one persevere in the hopeless task? Why should we toil for those who cannot, will not, be benefited ? This is the natural tendency of those assertions and arguments we sometimes hear from men, who think themselves profound observers, and who do not hesitate to assure you, that, when you have attained equal experience and wisdom with themselves, you will be satisfied that the progress of the world is nothing more than an improvement of physical condition arising rather from the operation of selfishness than any higher motive, and that in all moral qualities we are far inferior to those who preceded us, and that our children will, in all probability, be worse than ourselves;
Ætas parentum, pejor avis, tulit
Progeniem vitiosiorem.” For ourselves, we think with very little reverence of the philosophy which leads to such conclusions. It is always easier to find fault than to discern merit. When we hear a critic haranguing on the defects of a work of art, we cannot but
suspect him of not being able to understand or appreciate the talent displayed in it; and for the same reason, when we hear a philosopher descanting on the increasing evil in the world, we are inclined to ascribe it, in part at least, to his incapacity to see or comprehend the better tendencies of our nature. We are not going to launch upon the boundless ocean of discussion on the comparative state of society at different periods; but we have been led to the thought we have expressed, by what we must regard as a remarkable instance of the spirit of moral as well as physical improvement in the present age. When before, in the history of the world, was a mission sent from the government of one powerful nation to another, to examine, not the dock-yards, the manufactures, or munitions of war, not into the sources of revenue or system of taxation, but into the condition of the most degraded class of the community, those who have heretofore been beneath the reach of the sympathy of even the meanest member of the community ? How long is it since the condition of the prisoner has been thought worthy any.body's attention beside his keeper's? Shall we go back to the unsophisticated virtue of Roman, Grecian, Egyptian, or Hindoo antiquity, to recover traces of the humanity which our own age has lost? Or shạll we learn a lesson from the still ruder, untaught kindness of the savage, whose customs have descended from an era of unmeasured remoteness? Or is this seemingly philanthropic mission only another form of the selfishness so universal? Do people wish to find out the most effectual system of imprisonment in order merely that themselves may live in greater security ? When selfishness takes this shape of prudent forecast, of regard for the welfare of the many, and of justice without cruelty to the guilty, we are ready to call it a virtue of a high order. It is the same sort of selfishness which makes us desire the happiness arising from any right conduct, and which we wish to see increasing and extending perpetually. It is, moreover, highly creditable to this country, that it should be looked up to by foreigners as taking the lead in the reform of prison discipline, and that commissioners should be sent hither by a people among the most forward in all points of civilization, to make inquiries on the spot into the character of our penitentiary institutions, with a view to the improvement of their own. The report drawn up by Messrs. de Beaumont and de Tocqueville is a document of much value ; for it states facts and gives authorities for assertions, and thus enables one to come to results which may or may not agree with those of the authors. It does not display, so far as we could discover in perusal, much previous practical acquaintance with the subject. We doubt if the writers were familiar with the condition of the imprisoned criminal or debtor in their own country, before their appointment to inquire into the treatment of such persons here. They come to the subject with an air of freshness, which is, perhaps, no injury to the unprejudiced fairness of their views ; and they talk often with a respect for theories, which a little wider practical knowledge might have materially affected. They obviously possess the best and kindest feelings, and the soundest views as to the general object to be effected by what is called Prison Discipline; but this is a matter in which, as in many others, it is not enough to wish to do right. The wisdom of the wisest will not be superfluous, nor the brotherly kindness of the most benevolent thrown away upon it. It is full of difficulties still, difficulties arising from the different views men take of the objects to be attained and sought by it, and the different means they are disposed to adopt for the accomplishment of those objects; as well as on account of the general want of interest in the condition of a degraded class of human beings, and the incredulity which very much prevails still, as to the amount of usefulness of the whole system.
3D S. VOL. II. NO. III. 48
If you ask what is the object of punishment, one will answer, to deprive the criminal of the power of repeating his offence ; another will say, to deter others from the commission of crime; a third, simply, the security of society, without much regard to the means; and a fourth, the amendment of the guilty. Our answer to the question would be, the prevention of crime, in the widest possible sense of the words; its prevention for the future, as well in the convicted culprit himself as in all others. There are two objects to be attained, the one having reference to those within the walls of the prison, the other to those without.
To affect the latter, the punishment must be severe enough to be dreaded; to affect the former, its severity must be tempered with so much of mildness as will prevent it from being of a hardening, brutalizing character. Nor should we
Punishment should have a tendency to improve men, not to make them worse, nor keep them precisely where they are. Then comes the great question, What are the best means of improving persons of such character as usually become inmates of prisons? In order to determine the proper answer to this, it is manifest that the first necessary preliminary is an acquaintance with the character of those to be influenced. Upon this point the greatest, the most fundamental, and most pernicious errors have been everywhere committed. Convicts have been considered as all of one character, and that the most hardened and degraded possible; as if nothing but total de pravity could lead men to the commission of crime; as if offences against the laws of man were of so much deeper dye than those violations of the laws of God which escape the penitentiary; as if the power of sudden and strong temptation never led astray those who were prevailingly welldisposed; as if ignorance, and neglect, and bad company ought to have the same effect on the youthful mind, as instruction, care, and kind friends, and should be no excuse for the commission of offences the enormity of which the poor culprit was utterly incapable of appreciating; as if any man had a right to such confidence in his own righteousness, as to feel sure he might not have fallen as low under similar circumstances; or even, if that confidence were justifiable, as if he had a right, on that account, to shut out his fellow being from sympathy, and to harden himself against all feeling of another's infirmity.
The truth is, and happily it is a truth beginning to be felt and acknowledged, that there is a similar diversity of character to be found within the prison that exists outside of it; though, from the imperfection of human institutions, all are subjected alike to a uniform punishment. There is the young man, with habits not yet fixed in wrong, neglected perhaps, ignorant, and deserving rather compassion than
harshness; there is the weak tool of another's cunning; the reckless, headlong reveller, suddenly stopped in his heedless course; there is the man of strong passions, and the victim of an almost national vice; as well as the cool, resolute villain, and the old, hardened, hopeless reprobate. But we take back the last epithet. No one is hopeless. As long as human nature remains as it is, some hidden corner of the blackest heart, if it can but be reached, will be found susceptible of good. The number of those who have 56
grown old in sin, and hardened in their crimes,” is comparatively small; the majority of prisoners are young enough to have their characters materially affected by the circum