Page images

wben not in a state of intoxication. If, therefore, we go to Africa with the honourable design of benefiting the natives, by improving their moral and social habits-in short, by civilizing them—and at the same time take such steps in our intercourse with them as arc palpably connected with our own interest, they will inevitably descry the “occulo retorto" of the spirit of commerce; the benevolent attempts of the Institution will be defeated; and the undertaking will be a forlorn hope to those subscribers who have joyfully anticipated civilization, not extension of commerce.

On the subject of agriculture I wish to say a few words. The Abolition of the Slave Trade by this country, as well as by the United States of North America, having stopped the accustomed efflux of a large population from the shores of Africa, it seems to be a duty to lend our aid and instruction in improving the methods of cultivation practised on that continent, in order to meet the exigencies of an accumu. lating population; but I hope I shall be allowed to express a doubt, whether it will well accord with the avowed purpose of civilization to extend that aid and instruction in the cultiva. tion of produce that is not of the first necessity to animal or human subsistence.

The main question seems to be in a small compass. Any given district of Africa is, in regard to its population, either in a state of social habits, capable of maintaining a fair, legitimate, and honourable traffic-I mean internally, as well as externally-or it is not. If it is not, it affords a field for the exertion of benevolence on the part of this Institution, in conformity to its avowed purpose. If it is in such a state, then I conceive it is not within the limits of what has been so nobly and disinterestedly marked out as the object of pursuit by this Institution ; which, I fear, would ultimately fail of success, by incurring the suspicion in Africa of any mercenary purpose, or by proceeding in a way which in this country might be deemed a misapplication of the funds or a dereliction of the avowed object of the Society.

I have been anxious to form a correct opinion on this im. portant subject: such as it is, I give it, with great deference to that of wiser men ; and I hope the impulse of duty will not be thought, from what I have said, to have discarded such deference. It only remains to say, that if my ideas in regard to the nature and principle of civilization are an illusion.

Quantâ de spe decidi! 19th June, 1809.

G. H.

Abolition of the Slave Trade in Caraccas.

It is with great pleasure that we translate the following para. graph from El Espanol, No. VIII. for 30th Nov. 1:10, a publication in the Spanish language, which is printed in London, and appears on the 30th of every month. We insert the whole paragraph, though it is the latter part of it priocipally by which our affections are engaged. We cannot help regarding it as a most auspicious beginning, in more important causes than one. The facts are thus stated :

“The Gazettes of the Caraccas, which I have now lying before me, come down to the twenty-second of September : they contain many curious and well-written documents, which I am sorry at being unable to insert. They relate to the iniquitous means employed by the late Regency to repress the rising spirit of America. Among the rest is a secret order directed to the Captain-general of Caraccas, in which he is commanded to form lists of the persons wbo may be most fit for offices. The reply contains a fine exposition of the evils which call for remedy in America. Many of the obstacles which are presented in this paper, as militating against an union with the mother country, while the form of representation which had then been granted to these numerous provinces subsisted, are removed by the equality of representation which has since been conceded to them. And I hope that the people of that country, when this intelligence shall have reached them, will immediately dispatch their deputies to Europe. The wish not to separate themselves from the mother country is constantly expressed in all the public papers of the Americans, on condition of their enjoying an absolute equality of privileges. It appears, likewise, that they have constituted the representatives of the whole province into a Body Conservative of the rights of Ferdinand the Seventh, until the general vote of American and European Spain shall have constituted legitimately a provisional government in both hemispheres. I have also observed, with the greatest pleasure, that the junta of Caraccas have laid a prohibition upon the barbarous commerce in slaves ; although it might

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

be supposed, that no province of America has so great an interest in continuing it. But when the object to be accomplished is so horrible an oppression of humanity, such miserable calculations ought to be disregarded. Wisdom requires that the mischief and injury which arise from not respecting property acquired under the safeguard of anterior laws, should be carefully guarded against : accordingly, the junta has contented itself with prohibiting all those contracts which are not yet formed, witbout dissolving those which already existed. This magnanimity on the part of the junta of Caraccas is worthy of imitation.

Extract of a Letter on the Subject of the Bridewell at


One of the first Edinburgh objects, which I purposed to examine with attention, was the bridewell, constructed upon the plan of central inspection, proposed by Mr. Bentham for penitentiary houses in England. Admiring as I do, this form of a prison, which seems to me capable of procuring all the advantages to be expected or even desired in this way, I was surprized that those Scotchmen, with whom I bad conversed upon the subject, should give an unfavourable account of it. It was, according to them, a good speculative idea, but one which had utterly failed in practice at Edinburgh. It is notorious, said they, that the bopes conceived upon this subject have been disappointed ; so little reformation has been produced in the prisoners, that the greatest part of them quickly return to ihe prison, and even several times in suc. cession. The internal discipline is no less defective ; and an inconvenience that had not been foreseen is, that the prisoners, having an opportunity of seeing and hearing each other from cell to cell, become thereby more turbulent and noisy; there is not only a perpetual conversation kept up, but they are able, wben so disposed, to drown the voice of the gaoler by concerted clamours; -and as to labour, if it is not absolutely nothing, it is very trifling :-with the experience now acquired, if the bridewell were to be reconstructed it would not be upon the same plan.

Persuaded of the excellence of the panopticon principle, these objections astonished, rather than convinced me; they redoubled my curiosity to discover if there was not some cause, either in the construction of the prison or the administration of its discipline, to which the want of success might be attributed. I could not at first suspect that the complaints alluded to could have so little foundation as to be in certain respects in direct opposition to matter of fact.

The very day after my arrival at Edinburgh, I went to the bridewell with two gentlemen, who were precisely of the description which I could have desired -a lawyer and a physician: a well assorted party for the purpose in question. The Governor was absent, but we were well reccivcd by bis son, who shewed bimself much disposed to give us all the information we could wish.

The bridewell is, in fact, constructed on the panopti. con principle. The architect, having obtained a copy of Mr. Bentham's work upon the panopticon before it was published, made use of the principle, without taking any notice of the author; but he has by no means succeeded in his imitation, either because he did not comprehend the principle, or because he was disposed at all events to introduce something of his own. To expose all the defects it would be necessary to enter into a greai number of architectu. ral details, which it would be difficult to explain in a short compass. I shall confine myself to pointing out three essential deviations from the plan of Mr. Bentham.

1st. The cells for the prisoners, distributed in the cir. cumference, are all of the same dimensions, and so small, that this circumstance alone would exclude many sorts of labour.

2dly. From every cell the interior of many others may be seen ; this, by diverting the attention, and affording means of reciprocal cominunication, renders the internal management more difficult.

3dly. There are cells for the day and others for the night, the latter are situated behind the former, and have a little window in the external wall; this single defect totally changes the nature of the edifice; it is no longer a panopticon; the sleeping cells are withdrawn from all inspection, but many other inconveniences result from it; the interior cell is reduced to half the dimensions it ought to have, having no window without it is obscure at the further end, and has altogether too little ligbt for many kinds of work; it is also defi

cient in respect to a free circulation of air--a circumstance of the last importance, where a number of prisoners are collected in a small space.

But these defects, which subvert the original plan, are but of little consequence in the bridewell of Edinburgh, and why? because it is not destined to that class of prisoners which Mr. Bentham had in view; it is a prison of simple police, which does not commonly contain more tban 50 or 60 individuals, whose longest detention cannot extend beyond 60 days, and this is a correctional punishment inflicted, not by the judges, but by the magistrates of police, for minor offences. This small number of prisoners, in a district so extensive and so populous as that of Edinburgh, corresponds exactly with the advantageous idea entertained in England of the moral state of the people in Scotland.

It is very true that this correction does not always appear effectual with respect to those who are the subjects of it. The bridewell is not a school of reformation; the greatest part of those who leave it, return again in the sequel, and some of them, two or three times in the course of the same year.

But, after all, it is no reproach to this bridewell, if it be not a school of reformation; it is scarcely possible that it should be; what would you have the Governor do, in a detention of so short duration ; can he establish work-shops, form pupils, change the habits of his prisoners, undertake their moral, religious and mechanical education--and accomplish all this in the space of sixty days? the thing is evidently impossible ; but, what he cannot do, the Governor of a panopticon can easily and naturally effect upon a great number of prisoners, subjected to bis discipline for several years if necessary : his interest should be intimately connected with theirs; he should enrich himself by their industry, he should suffer the penalty of their idleness and of their misconduct, and he should enjoy the first fruits of the success of his efforts.

Those who have decided against the panopticon of Mr. Bentham, from the example of the bridewell of Edinburgh, have not adverted to the circumstances just pointed out. One might just as well say, that it is impossible to learn an art in five years, because we have no evidence of any one learning it six weeks, and yet this bridewell has a marked superiority over all existing houses of correction, and this is attributable to its circular form, and the principle of central inspection. Our intelligent informant, from long experience,

« PreviousContinue »