Зображення сторінки

presence of this Christian man. His informants were his

ears ;

of all that he heard and saw he made an imperishable note, and whilst he undertook to see justice done by the country to criminals whom he could not otherwise help, he gave freedom in every city to as many as a pecuniary contribution could supply with the liberty of which, guiltless of all crime, they had been wantonly robbed. The fruit of his first great labour was not slow to come. Upon the conclusion of the survey taken by John Howard of the prisons of England, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee, in order to ascertain from the philanthropist, who was called to the bar, the actual state of the case. We

may conclude that the language of a man in whose stern presence kings were said to quail, and whose indig. nant soul was overflowing with the wrong it knew, was, if not flattering to Parliament, highly useful for future legislation. The thanks of the Legislature were publicly given at the close of his evidence. In the course of it a characteristic question was addressed to him. A member, surprised at the extent and minuteness of his inspections, inquired at whose expense he travelled.

“Howard,” says a friend who knew him well, was almost choked before he could reply."

Having swept the provinces, Howard next turned to the metropolis. We have not space to follow him into the Fleet, the Marshalsea, the King's Bench, the Poultry Compter, the New Ludgate, and all the other places of detention into which he burrowed, and from which he brought forth for the contemplation of his fellows, misery that the saddest tales of



fiction could not parallel. We content ourselves with the announcement that the industry of the individual who never wearied, shamed the parliament into a desire to keep at all events in his track. It is the way of parliaments! Two bills for the better regulation of prisons passed the Legislature in 1774, one on the 31st of March, which abolished all fees, and gave a prisoner his discharge immediately upon acquittal; and another on the 2nd of June, which provided for the whitewashing, cleansing, and ventilation of prisons, for the establishment of infirmaries, and for the erection of dungeons in which even offenders might live. Howard, whose health was always bad, whose days were passed in abstinence and self-denial, was at home paying the penalty of his great exertions when these bills became law, but upon

his sick bed he thanked God for his success, and as soon as he recovered, revisited the gaols which he had already examined in every hole and nook-in order to satisfy himself that the acts were duly and fairly enforced !

From 1773 to 1775 Howard did not desist from prison inspection. Having exhausted England he passed into Scotland and crossed to Ireland, in every place acquiring information and accumulating facts for publication. In 1775 he proceeded to the continent, still in furtherance of his mission, halting first in Paris. The French prisons were bad enough, but far superior to those of England. There was at least a motive in the punishment; prisons were for the most part clean and fresh, and food was sufficient and regularly bestowed. The missionary told his business to the authorities and was admitted freely to all public prisons—the Bastille alone excepted. In this his daring love of prison knowledge had nearly caged him for life, but he escaped to be revenged on the French by translating an account of the State prison, secretly published, and obtained by him with the greatest difficulty and trouble. Belgium, Holland, Germany, were all taken in succession, and a mass of materials, the result of enormous labour, unflinching devotion, and great expense, was gathered from every one.

To return to England was but to vary the field of exertion. After his first foreign tour, Howard satisfied himself that improvement had taken root at home, and then he sallied forth again—this time to Switzerland, but always on the same pious and philanthropic errand. Something of the science of prison discipline was revealed in Switzerland. In his own country Howard had seen the felon thrown into a den, useless to society, fit for nothing but to generate disease and to hurt all who came within his atmosphere. Work was the principal element of the Swiss system of punishment and reform.” The hint was not forgotten.

For three years Howard without resting had occupied himself in collecting information concerning the punishment of offenders, when he resolved to give to the world his great work upon The State of Prisons. He had travelled 13,418 miles during the period, and no library could furnish the knowledge which he had stored up. The scnsation produced by the book corresponded with its value.

“It had been long and anxiously looked for. The fame of its author's labours-his disinterestednessthe purity of his motives in undertaking such a




missionaryship—the courage and devotion with which he had executed it-the sublime confidence in which he had penetrated dark and pestilential dungeons, in order to carry thereunto light and hope; also some intimation of the sterling worth and originality of his private character, had reached, through various channels, the knowledge of his countrymen. The meed of praise, of acknowledgment, was without stint or reservation—was free and full as it was richly merited.”

Shortly after the appearance of Howard's volume it became necessary for the English Government to decide what should be done with the convicts to whom the American war of independence suddenly denied the luxury of transportation. Howard was examined again before a committee of the House of Commons, and, recollecting what he had seen abroad, recommended a house of correction. There was one of some repute in Amsterdam, and Howard offered to visit it in order to ascertain its working. He set out once more.

From Holland he proceeded to Prussia, crossed Silesia “through the ranks of the opposing armies of Austria and Prussia ;" spent some time in Vienna, and then returned by way of Italy. At Rome he desired to see the dungeons of the Inquisition. They were locked, as had been those of the Bastille in Paris; all others opened to him. Having travelled 4,600 miles upon this tour, Howard came homeward again through France. The blessings of the imprisoned followed his course. He had distributed charity whithersoever he went; he had done infinitely more. He had summoned the attention of nations to a subject of human interest in which the happiness and welfare of society are more nearly concerned than the world had ever suspected.

After a short interval of rest Howard made another home journey in order to learn how far the acts of Parliament of 1774 had succeeded in their objects. “This home journey, was in fact, one of the longest and most laborious which he had yet undertaken, occupying from January to the end of November of the year 1779, in the course of which he traversed almost every county in England, Ireland, and Scotland, travelling to and fro 6,990 miles. The results of all these labours were given to the world at the end of the year.” The inspection was satisfactory. “Some of the more flagrant abuses which he had formerly noted had been removed, the spirit of reform was aroused, the gaols were almost universally cleaner, more orderly, more healthy.”

We can only indicate the course of his further travels. Every year saw Howard extending the field of his investigation, and amplifying his great knowledge. He had visited the south and centre of Europe; now he travelled to the extreme north. His fame was already universal, much to his annoyance, for no sooner was his approach heralded in any city of Europe than the prison of that place was brushed up and made to assume holiday attire. To guard against deception he entered Petersburgh alone and on foot. The police, however, discovered him, and the Empress Catherine at once invited the apostle to appear at Court. Howard—Republican and Puritan in every fibre of his heart—respectfully informed the Empress that he came to visit the dungeon of the captive and the abode of the wretched, not the palaces

« НазадПродовжити »